Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow. Although there is currently no cure for myeloma, it is an eminently treatable disease. Many patients go on to lead full lives for years, even decades, after diagnosis.
It is a very individual disease. It is is often slow moving, but can sometimes be more aggressive. While the doctor assesses each particular situation and recommends the best approach, the patient plays a central role in helping make these individual treatment decisions. It is important that patients and their families be well informed, ask questions, and give serious thought to alternative strategies or options.
Myeloma is a tumor involving specialized white blood cells in the bone marrow. The cells that are affected are plasma cells, which are our antibody-producing cells. A malignant or cancerous plasma cell is called a myeloma cell. Myeloma is called "multiple" since there are frequently multiple patches or areas in bone where tumors or lesions have developed.
So in disbelief after diagnosis confirmation at the very beginning August (who the heck has ever heard of this cancer?) we embarked on a journey that we will continue together as a family. Strong. Resilient. We are better together. More fun together. We've been through some stuff (hey, who hasn't?) and really, we can do this. We WILL do this. Life has WAY too much to offer my mother at the age of 66 in January! She has two rock-star daughters (hahahah...I brag) and two awesome son-in-laws and 4 grandchildren and an 86 year old mother still alive and an incredible sister and lots of magnificent extended family members and incredible friends.
Our heads were spinning when we left the Marinette doctor and we thought treatment would begin as soon as we saw the Chicago doctor... Drug names, stem cell transplants, blood tests, blah blah blah...........I'm sure my mom was having an outer-body experience but I was in business mode, asking questions, trying to get a grip on this whole thing as I knew I would be re-telling this story to all my family members many times over. I work well in these situations. No tears were shed. Why cry now? Let's take care of business. Let's get the facts and a plan in place. Dad's not here. I am next in line. I am the oldest child.
We are thrilled that we would gain access to state-of-the-art doctors and treatment and options. We are seeing a multiple myeloma specialist at Northwestern Hospital. It doesn't hurt that Mom's doctor is easy on the eyes! It is so comforting to go to a facility that slightly resembles a fine hotel. Dr. Mehta is so calm and relaxed that it makes us feel relieved after every visit. This was caught in the earliest possible stages. My mom has no symptoms. After our research we found many people find out they have MM after breaking bones.........but their doctor doesn't catch it here........and the disease progresses until it is found even later.
So we had a bit of a respite, but as of Monday, Mom started a drug treatment plan that includes some ridiculously priced cancer drugs (but she won't lose her hair or be really sick....just some little things possibly that anyone could deal with, because hey, this is your life! It's worth it!) and what we can now call "Steroid Tuesday" to boost her good stem cells with a possible stem cell transplant on the horizon.
The latest and greatest technology is to harvest your own good stem cells after killing off anything remotely negative in your system (I think we can apply that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger theory here) and then putting the good stem cells back in with hopes the MM is gone forever. (50% chance here..........but hey, if you have a 50% chance of winning the lottery would you buy a ticket???)
I could write you a list of positive things. One of them being that Mom has access to Northwestern but has a doctor in Marinette that can administer all the drug therapies, consult with her, etc. Not having to travel to Chicago for every little thing is helpful. Knowing we have the best of the best at the heart of her treatment is also comforting. Dr. Mehta sees patients that travel to visit him from all over the world. He has worked his whole career (he's only 43!) to head up the stem cell transplant program at Northwestern. This is ground breaking research he is doing. Fantastic!
I plan to have Mom around for many, many, many more years to come. God bless us all. Thanks for your support and prayers. We love you. Our positive energy and spirit will reign supreme. We are connected like a fine golden thread that weaves itself through our lives. The great circle of life.
From the day we arrive on the planet And blinking, step into the sun There's more to see than can ever be seen More to do than can ever be done There's far too much to take in here More to find than can ever be found But the sun rolling high Through the sapphire sky Keeps great and small on the endless round It's the Circle of Life And it moves us all Through despair and hope Through faith and love Till we find our place On the path unwinding In the Circle The Circle of Life