Patient Stories

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Survivor

Susan Ault

  • Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2001
  • Treated with chemotherapy, and cured with a bone marrow transplant

Susan Ault was living in Mississippi, running a café on the Gulf Coast, when she got sick. She showered one morning as usual, and when she got out of the shower she noticed a huge lump had popped out on the side of her neck.

That lump, Ault soon discovered, was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph glands. Ault says she knew it was time to come home: home to Sequim, the small town on the Olympic Peninsula where her family has lived since the 1870s, and home to Seattle, to receive care at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

"I want the best," Ault, now 47, remembers saying at the time. "I was in Mississippi, and I called all over. I made 26 phone calls. And Seattle Cancer Care Alliance was number one."

She came home within weeks of her diagnosis in January 2001, and began chemotherapy at SCCA. For the chemotherapy Ault received, she was hospitalized at the University of Washington Medical Center for a week at a time, one week a month for four months. She received the drugs continuously for the week, but had few side effects.

"I never got sick," she says. "It was awesome." The chemotherapy was followed by an autologous stem-cell transplant in July of 2001. In this type of transplant, the patient's own cells are harvested and then transplanted after chemotherapy.

Ault stayed at the Pete Gross House near SCCA during her out-patient treatment, and her ex-husband was her care giver. In fact, she says, both of her ex-husbands showed up to help out.

Ault has nothing but praise for the care she received at SCCA. "They treat the whole mind, soul and body," she says. "I met people from all over the world while I was in treatment, I met people who had been told elsewhere, 'We can't do anything for you.' I met people who had been told [elsewhere] they were too old for a transplant."

Family Support

Family is important to Ault. She is close to her two adult daughters, Chrissy, a registered nurse who lives in Mississippi. Her other daughter, Melissa.

In Sequim, a town of 4,500, she is surrounded by family, including the brother and sister-in-law she lived with for awhile after completing cancer treatment. Sequim is also home to nieces and nephews and a dozen cousins. Two sisters live in Seattle, and another in Hoquiam, another small town on the Olympic Peninsula.

While her daughters were growing up, the family lived in Sequim until the girls were in the fourth and fifth grade. Then Ault, the girls and her then-husband spent 13 years building and running campgrounds in nine different states. But now she is happy to be home.

Religion is also important to Ault. She says she did so well during cancer treatment "because of God and lots of prayers."

Of treatment, she says, "It's such a traumatic thing … I had to let go and let God take care of me. I would just sit back and read and crochet."

Giving Back

Ault is training as a volunteer to help other people with cancer. She has joined a non-denominational volunteer program through her church called Stephan Ministries, and has almost completed the six months of training required of volunteers. "We help anyone in need," she says. "We're there to listen, to talk and just to be there. We tell our own story, if that seems helpful. It's like what a minister or a psychologist would do."

Ault was told in Mississippi that her cancer was terminal, but now,, her cancer was in remission, and she's happy to be home in Sequim, more involved in life and the community than she has ever been.

"The reason is, if I can help one more person get through it …then I'm happy," she says.