Fraternity holds benefit for student diagnosed with lymphoma

The student is one of the youngest people to have this type of cancer.

by Lolla Mohammed Nur

John Verly is almost like any other ambitious college student: he founded the UniversityâÄôs speech club, is a fraternity member and has big dreams for himself after graduation. However, unlike most students âÄî and most others his age âÄî Verly has primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL). PCNSL is a rare form of brain cancer that is more commonly seen in men 50 to 60 years of age with HIV. The twenty-year-old University of Minnesota agriculture education junior has neither of those traits. âÄúNo one understood why I got it because IâÄôm young and active. IâÄôm supposed to be healthy,âÄù Verly said. Members of FarmHouse Fraternity, to which Verly belongs, organized a benefit for him Thursday evening. Almost 500 people attended and about $4,300 was raised to help cover VerlyâÄôs medical bills. âÄúItâÄôs so touching. ItâÄôs great to see all the people who have been supporting and praying for us,âÄù Barb Verly, his mother, said. Before he was diagnosed this summer, Verly said he noticed his blurred vision and headaches intensify, after which he was told to wear eyeglasses. âÄúI was joking around, telling him to toughen up and get used to his glasses,âÄù said VerlyâÄôs longtime friend, agriculture senior Brad Lanoue. âÄúI felt really bad about that when I found out it was cancer.âÄù After getting an MRI scan, five spinal taps and a second doctorâÄôs opinion, Verly was told he might have lymphoma but his physicians didnâÄôt know why. The results of a biopsy âÄî the process of removing tissue to examine cells âÄî on the left side of his cerebellum confirmed the doctorsâÄô fears. Verly became one of the youngest people to be diagnosed with PCNSL. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls motor skills. Because of the biopsy, Verly canâÄôt move the left side of his body and needs to use a cane to walk. He canâÄôt drive a car or exercise as much as he used to. But his friends say heâÄôs optimistic. âÄúBeing social is his biggest thing, he is so funny,âÄù said VerlyâÄôs girlfriend Ailene McAuliffe. But since his diagnosis, the animal science junior said âÄúthings are more sober for him. ItâÄôs a disappointment for all of us but itâÄôs life and we all have to move on.âÄù Since the biopsy, VerlyâÄôs daily routine includes occupational therapy sessions, swimming, walking and working on the farm to improve his motor skills. âÄúWeâÄôre optimistic that heâÄôll regain his mobility,âÄù Pat Verly, his father, said. âÄúBut what you donâÄôt see are the effects of the cancer. That scares me the most.âÄù So far Verly has undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, and although he hasnâÄôt experienced major side effects like hair loss yet, he said itâÄôs been stressful. âÄúThe hardest part is not being at school with my friends, but my friends and family have been so supportive,âÄù Verly said. He is scheduled for a stem cell transplant and intense chemotherapy in a few months, which the doctors hope will remove the cancerous cells, he said. During this time Verly will be in isolation for about seven weeks. âÄúItâÄôs going to kick the crap out of me but I have optimism that IâÄôll beat it. It sucks to get cancer at 20 but better now than later,âÄù Verly said with a chuckle. VerlyâÄôs family and friends say they are optimistic, despite that there is no cure for lymphoma. âÄúI donâÄôt want anyone to look at John as if heâÄôs going to die. Treat him like you would any other person,âÄù his father said. âÄúWeâÄôre praying and putting our faith in God. Whatever will be, will be.âÄù