Eric Rickert

The day after Bellevue firefighter Eric Rickert completed the challenging Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in 2015, he began feeling unusual abdominal pain. He hoped it was just a stomach flu, but the sharp, cramping aches lasted for days. After weeks of seemingly endless tests and doctor appointments, Eric received life-changing news: He had stage 4 mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). 

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient

  • Diagnosed in 2015 with mantle cell lymphoma at age 45
  • Treated with chemotherapy and received a bone marrow transplant

The day after Bellevue firefighter Eric Rickert completed the challenging Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in 2015, he began feeling unusual abdominal pain. He hoped it was just a stomach flu, but the sharp, cramping aches lasted for days. After weeks of seemingly endless tests and doctor appointments, Eric received life-changing news: He had stage 4 mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). 

Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare, chronic and currently incurable but treatable form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that typically affects older men. The shocked 45-year-old father of two teenagers took to the internet for help, but felt overwhelmed by discouraging and confusing information. However, his research led him to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), an organization with a long history of novel therapies and clinical trials that are dramatically improving outcomes for patients with lymphoma.

He quickly began treatment at SCCA: six rounds of chemotherapy over a four-month period. 

“Thanks in part to tremendous support from my family, the Bellevue Fire Department, my neighbors and my fellow firefighters, I had all the assistance I needed,” says Eric. “I tolerated the treatments well and was able to continue working as a firefighter for most of the time. I think my physical and mental health benefited tremendously from being motivated to maintain a reasonable level of fitness and keep busy throughout my treatment. Some would say I was too stubborn, but I still think it helped.” 

The decision to have a transplant

After completing chemotherapy, tests showed that Eric’s cancer was in complete remission and undetectable. To further extend the remission, his SCCA care team recommended an autologous stem cell transplant — a procedure in which the patient’s stem cells are removed, high-dose chemotherapy is given and the patient’s own stem cells are then returned to their bloodstream to make new blood cells. Though it wasn’t an easy decision, Eric chose to have a stem cell transplant in October 2015. 

“It knocked me on my derriere for a solid month!” Eric says. “But in November, I was able to begin resuming physical activity and light exercise. In December, I returned to work in a modified capacity, and in January, I returned to full duty doing the job I love: being a Bellevue firefighter.”

Patient turned fundraiser

Today, Eric continues to be in remission, healthy and active. He has participated in many firefighter stairclimb events and is a dedicated fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. 

“I am grateful and humbled by all the support I received from friends, family and even strangers during my treatment and again by contributing generously to my stairclimb fundraising efforts. I am optimistic that by supporting LLS we are helping patients with blood cancers.”