Burkitt lymphoma diagnosis halts young couple’s wedding | Tijn and Susie’s story

VIDEO | 03:47

At age 30, Tijn was successfully treated at MSK for stage III Burkitt Lymphoma. Hear his story, and learn how he’s doing today.

Show transcript

We were out to dinner with my family, celebrating my birthday, and then Tijn received the phone call and stepped outside. He was on the sidewalk; we could see him. He comes back in and we're sitting there with my parents and my sister, and he says, "I think I have cancer."

We were supposed to be flying to Italy in two weeks for our wedding.

Everything stops at that moment. When you hear the bad news, everything just stops.

You know, they were young, just getting their life started. And here they were, they had to deal with lymphoma. There was no way that he could fly to Italy and have this fantastic wedding.

You know, you get your game face on and you say, "OK. Now is the time that we need to deal with this."

First, I got diagnosed with B cell lymphoma, stage I. And then we went to MSK, did some more testing, and then they actually told us that it's actually a very rare type of cancer called Burkitt lymphoma and it's stage III. I'm just like, "Whoa, hold on. It's worse than I thought it was."

This is a rare type of the lymphoma that can be very fast growing in nature, and therefore has the ability to harm patients in a relatively short period of time.

Meeting Dr. Batlevi and her team, like right away, she was very warm and personable. From the doctors to the administrative staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering, you know that you're going to be treated by the best people out there. It's truly the right spot to be.

Certain types of therapy were sort of better suited for this particular type of lymphoma. So we enrolled him into a clinical trial to treat his lymphoma with just the right amount of chemotherapy.

And you're not being treated by someone who understands cancer broadly, but really experts who specialize in what you specifically are dealing with. That gave us a lot of confidence.

Clinical trials are the cornerstone of how we advance medicine. We really believe in the care that we're delivering through it.

Knowing what the treatment plan was going to be like and knowing that the outcome was probably going to be positive, you can just move forward and only think about, "I'm getting better. I'm getting better. I'm getting better." And then I was luckily cured by the new year.

A year later, we finally were able to have our wedding and have our friends and family come together to celebrate our love and our life.

"You may now kiss the bride."

You think about all the things that these patients go through in order to survive and thrive. And you look at their courage and you look at how strong they are, and that just makes the bad stuff of the day kind of wash away. And I'm so excited to see what's in store for Tijn and Susie.

I think we were in shock, because we didn't expect it to happen so quickly.

At some point we just said, "Let's try it. Let's see how things go."

Being able to celebrate new life is very special. It's very special to see that our love can culminate in something so miraculous.