Patient Stories

Equestrian Resumes Riding After Hodgkin Lymphoma Cancer Treatment

Originally published June 23, 2022

Last reviewed June 30, 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Kristin Titov, a patient at Keck Medicine, lying on her horse in a field

Kristin Titov shares how Keck Medicine of USC’s Newport Beach team helped diagnose and treat her Hodgkin lymphoma cancer.

Kristin Titov is highly accomplished in the world of reining, a type of competition where a rider guides a horse through a series of maneuvers — and she endures long, intense practices to prepare.

So, after waking up sore one morning, Kristin didn’t suspect a problem. 

“I was massaging my neck and felt a bump; I thought it was a knot in a muscle,” says Kristin, who sought relief from a chiropractor in the fall of 2020. “He said it looked like a lymph node and told me to see a doctor right away.”

Kristin’s primary care physician said it was possible that she had lymphoma, and referred her to Louis VanderMolen, MD, an oncologist at Keck Medicine of USC in Newport Beach.

Although Kristin had no family history of cancer, she immediately recognized the specialist’s name: Dr. VanderMolen had treated her best friend’s mother.

“For years, I had heard about this doctor my best friend calls ‘the miracle worker,’” says Kristin, a Corona del Mar resident. “She didn’t expect her mother to survive her cancer diagnosis, but she beat it working with Dr. VanderMolen and lived to be 92.”

After an inconclusive biopsy, VanderMolen sent Kristin to a surgeon to have her lymph node removed. On her 43rd birthday, doctors told Kristin that she had Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

‘Top-notch’ cancer care and treatment in Newport Beach

Hodgkin lymphoma is common in young adulthood and in adults over the age of 65. And while some people experience symptoms such as fever, sweats or unexplained weight loss, Kristin says she felt nothing until she noticed the swollen lymph node in her neck.

I knew from the beginning that I could trust Dr. VanderMolen. I also felt that everyone that he referred me to was top notch, and they all had nothing but respect for him.

Kristin Titov

Current treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma involve radiation with or without chemotherapy, depending on the stage of the disease. 

“The outlook is usually excellent for these individuals,” Dr. VanderMolen says. “Over the years, the treatment has become less extensive, shorter in duration and less toxic.”

Kristin had several rounds of chemotherapy that tested her emotionally and physically. It also prevented her from spending much time with her horse, Pickles, because she boards the animal in Arizona.

Despite her challenges, Kristin never questioned if she was in the right hands.

“I knew from the beginning that I could trust Dr. VanderMolen,” she says. “I also felt that everyone that he referred me to was top notch, and they all had nothing but respect for him.”

Ready to ride again after treatment

Kristin Titov and her horse, Pickles.

Kristin credits the entire staff at Keck Medicine’s treatment center in Newport Beach for delivering a positive experience.

“Every single person who works in Dr. VanderMolen’s office and the treatment center is so kind,” says Kristin, who has finished her treatments and has since resumed her western-inspired clothing and accessories business. She’s also planning to return to reining competitions later this year.

Meanwhile, Kristin’s relationship with her Keck Medicine care team continues.

“Every time I have a follow-up, it’s like going to a family reunion,” she says. “I actually look forward to going.”

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cancer care
Dr. Louis VanderMolen
Hodgkin lymphoma cancer
Hope Hamashige
Hope Hamashige is a freelance writer for Keck Medicine of USC.