Slow-growth lymphoma has met its match in Saline resident Eric Harcourt, who plans to play racquetball for 12 straight hours May 12 to raise funds that will go toward research efforts aimed at finding a cure for the disease.
(Click here to donate http://pages.mwoy.org/mi/detroit18/eharcourt.)
Harcourt had more than his fair share of medical problems prior to being diagnosed with B Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Follicular Lymphoma on April 14, 2017. Earlier that year, a shoulder operation left his chest and arm harnessed together by a cumbersome brace. Shortly thereafter a blood clot was discovered in his lower body.
Though doctors were not certain if the two issues were related, after operating to remove the clot they returned with devastating news.
“I went in for a blood clot in my thigh,” Harcourt recalls. “They were like, ‘You have lymphoma, sir.’ I said, ‘What? No Way.’”
His doctor’s words were difficult to take.
“It was earth-shattering,” he said.
Yet for some reason, Harcourt said his new reality set in quickly.
“It didn’t take long,” he said. “By the time they had me upstairs I had kind of figured out that it would be a different road than the day before.”
Along with wife, Lissi, Harcourt has two young children, Brecken and Winnie, who initially struggled with the situation.
“The kids were definitely stressed out, you could tell,” he said. “I mean, I was in the hospital for 12 days. It was a long time to be away from them and they would show up and say, ‘Why doesn’t he just come home? He looks fine.’”
While Harcourt’s form of cancer is not as immediately aggressive as some other variants, one of the most troubling aspects is the fact that there is currently no way to achieve complete remission.
“The lymphoma that I have is called follicular lymphoma,” he said. “It’s not super rare and it’s not one of those cancers that kills you right away, but there’s no cure for it.”
But, as in the rest of his day-to-day life, Harcourt isn’t the type of person to back down when a challenge presents itself.
Years of hard work and determination have garnered him what, by any measure, is a wonderful life. He and his family live in a lovely home with an idyllic yard that cascades down to a pond where wild flowers meet the water’s edge. They have an energetic puppy named Luna who seems capable of an infinite number of laps around the children’s play structure.
Professionally, Harcourt is vice president of business development and customer relations for a technology-related consulting firm and enjoys his work to the point that he didn’t let up even when undergoing treatment.
“I never stopped working; I worked the whole time I was in the hospital,” he said, citing several times he made the doctors wait for him to finish up. “I’d say, ‘I got to make this call!’”
So, when it came time to make a strong, personal statement in the fight against cancer, Harcourt set his sights predictably high. He chose to raise money for an organization actively seeking a cure, as well as aiding those currently living with diseases like his: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“That’s the reason I got involved,” he said. “A lot of the other cancers there’s actually cures for. So, I want to raise awareness and get people to understand that there’s a lot of people who get cancers that are super severe instantly, and then there are others that you can live a long, long time with if managed properly and by following the proper health procedures to do that.”
Harcourt said he was encouraged by how little financial overhead came out of the research funds at the LLS and was impressed from the first time he contacted the organization.
“I just called to see what I could do since I’m doing this 12 hours of racquetball at the rec center,” he said. “They said, ‘Yeah, Eric, there are all kinds of programs.”
Before he knew it, Harcourt had been nominated to compete for the LLS Man or Woman of the Year.
“It’s for the Southeast Michigan area, and it’s all by votes,” he said. “Every dollar that you raise is another vote, and whoever ends up with the most votes wins it.”
While he is enjoying competing, Harcourt said his end game isn’t to be at the top of the leader board when all is said and done.
“I’m not necessarily going out to win the whole thing,” he said. “I’m just going out to raise some money and have some fun and get people involved, and get people engaged in what some of the different lymphomas are.”
Until a cure is available, Harcourt said he’ll rely on his comprehensive medical team at the University of Michigan who have him on a stable course of treatment.
“Right now, I go back every other month for a drug called Rituxan and that’s a maintenance drug that I’ll take for the next two years and then we’ll do another scan,” he said. “When I was doing the chemo, it was about eight-and-a-half hours for both chemo and Rituxan on Thursdays, six months of that, and then I would just do the Rituxan for about four-and-a-half hours. Now that my body is used to it, I can get the Rituxan in about an hour-and-a-half.”
Aside from some skin reactions due to the Rituxan, Harcourt said the side effects are manageable.
“I’m just tired and I don’t have the strength I used to have,” he said, “but that’ll come back, too.”
Along with enjoying his family and work responsibilities, Harcourt is embracing his passions and hobbies with vigor.
He recently took a ski trip to Austria with a group of longtime buddies.
“It was one of those bucket list deals,” he said.
Ultimately, Harcourt said he is simply staying positive, something he doesn’t find it difficult to do.
“Turn your head left and turn your head right and there’s somebody who’s got it way worse than you,” he said. “There’s too much going on not to be happy, all the positives with work and kids and life.”
Harcourt will play in continual doubles matches of racquetball from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 12 at the Saline Rec Center.
“It’s going to be 12 teams of three, so I’ll be in there all 12 hours playing doubles,” he said. “The goal for each one of those people on those teams to raise $333.33, so it’ll be $1,000 an hour.”
But Harcourt said his day will be far from over when he leaves the court.
“Lissi and I will be hosting a party that night at Mac’s from 8:30 p.m. until whenever it wraps up,” he said. “We’ll have some live auctions of things people are donating and we’d love to have more donations to auction off.”
Financial pledge sheets will be available at the rec center on the day of the event and contributions can also be made at any time directly on Harcourt’s behalf at http://pages.mwoy.org/mi/detroit18/eharcourt.
Voting will continue until June 2, and Harcourt is already off to a great start.
“With very little effort we’ve already got $4,000,” he said.