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Sean’s Burgundy Thread: Chicken, Storm Clouds, And Myeloma

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Published: Mar 6, 2012 11:19 am

Tuesday, February 28, started out like most any other day for me, but little did I know that it was destined to be one for the memory books.

After nearly ten months of aggressive treatment for multiple myeloma in Arkansas and twenty-seven months of weekly maintenance chemo­therapy back home in the Ozarks of southwest Missouri, I had learned, despite my ongoing health issues, to tackle each day with as much gusto as I could muster.

As was the custom, I woke up early to see my wife and kids off to school before beginning my tasks for the day.

I was under the weather, as they say. I had been battling fevers and sig­nificant cold symptoms and was working with my local family physician to get the flu, or whatever it was, under control and to bring my temperature down so that I could take my weekly infusion of Velcade (bortez­omib), an important cancer drug in my chemotherapy arsenal. Having faced pneumonia earlier in the year, I was anxious to get the most recent sickness behind me and stay on track with my myeloma treatment.

Walking outside that mid-morning, I noticed that the unseasonably mild winter weather had prodded some trees to start budding early and that a band of song birds had migrated back to their familiar perches surrounding my house in Kimberling City. Though Punxsutawney Phil had predicted six more weeks of winter back in Pennsylvania, the bright sunshine and warm weather shouted an early springtime.

Eager to get my day started, I hopped into the car and turned the ignition key. No spark! Nothing. After checking the connections, I pulled out my battery charger and half an hour later I was off and running. No worries!

In the scheme of things, we myeloma patients learn to take life’s daily challenges, medical or otherwise, in stride. We learn to go about our business.

As the stop light a quarter of a mile from my house turned from red to green, I looked both ways before turning left into the intersection. Hearing a loud honking, I caught sight of a loaded dump truck in my rear view mirror quickly barreling down on me. I accelerated like Starsky and Hutch into the turn just as the dump truck narrowly missed my bumper and slammed into the guard rail. I pulled over and looked back in time to see the truck driver get out of his cab, slam his fist on the side of his truck, and scream at the top of his lungs. A town policeman was sitting in the nearby diner and quickly took control of the situation.

Now fueled not only by my morning cup of coffee, but also the massive spike in adrenaline caused by nearly being squashed by a dump truck, I went about my day.

My first stop was to pick up some prescription refills. The line was long. No problem. Then the pharmacy’s computers went down. A bit of a problem. The computers came back online, but would not recognize my prescription card. Big problem. I wasn’t going to pay hundreds of dollars for meds that were covered by my prescription plan. The folks at the pharmacy knew me by first name, but they couldn’t help me. Rats! I’m referring to the situation, not the staff. Breathe!

I decided to cut my losses and head over to my doc’s office for my scheduled check-up to see how the treatment for my respiratory infections was progressing. If my temp was down, I would most likely be able to get my infusion the next day. Don’t you know it, I was informed that the computers at the doctor’s office weren’t working and that appointments were backed up for a couple of hours. Arrgghh!

I politely explained my situation and asked if they could just take my temperature and my blood pressure, which was, no doubt, greatly elevated since leaving my house that morning. I was told to wait.

After nearly an hour, my favorite nurse walked through the waiting room, saw me, and said, “Don’t you just need your temperature and blood pressure taken?” With the world-class rolling of her eyes, I was ushered into the back, strapped to a sphygno… sphygmomyn… a blood pressure cuff and a thermometer. Looking at the readings, she summarily pronounced that my blood pressure was good, but that I still had a fever and would not likely be getting an infusion the next day. Double rats!

I called the cancer center and informed them that I had a fever and rescheduled the infusion for Friday.

Firmly in the camp of feeding a fever, on my way home I stopped at a drive-through chicken restaurant to satisfy my unexplained craving for a piece of what my hip musician friends lovingly call ‘yard bird.’ I was welcomed by the voice at the other end of the squawk box and urged to order when I was ready.

Knowing what I wanted, I said, “May I have one chicken breast, an order of green beans, and some coleslaw, please?”

“Sure, except that we don’t have any chicken. We should have more after awhile.”

I was instantly struck by the positive thinking of the kid taking my order. He was so sure that a customer would drive up to a chicken place and order biscuits, mashed potatoes, green beans, anything but CHICKEN, that he didn’t feel it prudent to tell me up front that there was, well, no chicken. His attitude may take him far. Or maybe not.

Laughing it off, I decided to go to the diner near where the dump truck disaster was averted, and I ordered chicken. Of course, they had sold out of the chicken lunch special. Why should I expect otherwise? While I was in the diner, my car was backed into in the parking lot. Where was that policeman now? I decided to go home and cook my own piece of dadgum chicken.

Sensing that my fever was overtaking my reason, I went home to bed, sans chicken. I woke up in time to enjoy dinner with my family (no, it wasn’t chicken) and to watch a movie with my wife.

After the movie, my wife and kids went to bed and I started doing research for a creative project I was undertaking.

Following the theme of the day, my computer’s Internet connection failed. I gently closed my laptop, thanked God that I wasn’t taking dexamethasone (Decadron) that day, and switched on the television. I smiled when the first thing I saw was a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial. God has a unique sense of humor.

Sometime after midnight, as I was flipping channels, one of my dogs nervously jumped up into my lap and made me spill my drink. A brief second later I heard the storm sirens in our town begin to wail and I jumped up, spilling my drink on the dog.

I found the local weathercaster commanding everyone in the path of the storm to take cover immediately. And right in the path was Kimberling City. My wife also heard the sirens, so we woke up our two daughters and got everyone into the laundry room / storm shelter. The three dogs huddled with us.

The power went out, then on again, then off again. The winds howled, a deluge of rain lasted about a minute or so, and then everything calmed down. No rain, little wind, everything seemed back to normal. I peeked outside and saw no damage. No big deal.

The power came back on, and reports started rolling in. It was a big deal. An F02 tornado had touched down a quarter of a mile from my house. Forty to fifty homes were damaged; at least twenty-five were destroyed. A major resort hotel and dozens of lakeside boats and their marinas suffered severe damaged. Our church, one hundred yards from the hotel, was left unscathed.

The tornado skipped next door to the entertainment and tourism town of Branson and damaged musical theatres, restaurants, hotels, and many residential buildings.

We were very thankful to learn that no deaths were reported and that of the fifty or so injuries treated, none were life threatening. The same storm system moved on into Illinois and beyond and wreaked untold havoc and killed several people.

When you have myeloma, you are often times presented with daily challenges that others don’t understand. Pain, reactions to medications and treatment, exhaustion beyond reason, and so on. We get through these challenges.

I have learned to cope with the everyday annoyances by putting things into proper perspective. So what if I have to postpone an appointment? Who cares that someone nicked my car in the parking lot? I don’t have any control over someone else’s computer going down. Will I let that ruin my day? No!

I will not let my neuropathy, my fever, or my aching bones dictate whether I will be happy or productive today. I will not let a near-miss car accident or a destructive tornado consume me with fear.

I will continue to respect myeloma, but I will not kowtow to it. If I allow simple everyday stresses, the weightier issues of life, and the unique difficulties that myeloma presents to dampen my spirit, my hope, and my resolve, then myeloma will beat me. And I have no plans to let myeloma beat me.

Bring on tomorrow!

Sean Murray is a multiple myeloma patient and columnist at The Myeloma Beacon.

If you are interested in writing a regular column to be published on The Myeloma Beacon, please contact the Beacon team at .

Photo of Sean Murray, monthly columnist at The Myeloma Beacon.
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  • Christina said:

    That is such a great article. It made me laugh, and I think you are really a hero, and I'm sure your wife and kids think so too:).

    I truly believe you have to have a sense of humor about these things ! Thanks that made my day which is just beginning.

  • Nadia said:

    Thanks for another great read. You are a true inspiration and I wish you all the very best.

  • Nanette said:

    What a day! Hope that you're feeling better, my friend!

  • patricia said:

    So glad your family was spared the REAL danger; being injured by the storm.Your day, does put everything else, into perspective.Thank the Lord, you were not taking steroids that day, some heads might have rolled!

  • Christine said:

    Thanks for the article, we all have bad days, but you really had some good luck in a very bad day. It is the one positive thing I have gotten from my MM so far is that it really makes me appreciate life and not sweat the small stuff. Good luck!

  • John S. said:

    Wow! Talk about being able to "handle"... I am pretty certain I'd not be as mellow!

  • nancy shamanna said:

    Hi Sean...thanks for writing up your account of the close call with a tornado, and a collision with a truck. So glad to hear that none in your family or town were seriously injured. We saw the video of the tornadoes on the news...Do you think that the fact that three different computer systems failed during that day was due to the storm? Myeloma is one of those facts of life that we have to deal with, but of course we have to keep our wits about us for all the other things in life that could go wrong! Glad you were able to take it in stride.

  • Michael Creighton said:

    Had me grinning from go to whoa. Ain't life grand!

  • suzierose said:

    Hi Sean!!

    You write:

    "I will not let my neuropathy, my fever, or my aching bones dictate whether I will be happy or productive today. I will not let a near-miss car accident or a destructive tornado consume me with fear.
    I will continue to respect myeloma, but I will not kowtow to it. If I allow simple everyday stresses, the weightier issues of life, and the unique difficulties that myeloma presents to dampen my spirit, my hope, and my resolve, then myeloma will beat me. And I have no plans to let myeloma beat me."

    ICAM!! and feel those words need an encore...thanks for the uplift...

    YOLO!!! ...is the only way to go...

    Keep on moving forward, with happy GUSTO!!

  • Lori Puente said:

    As usual, you make me chuckle Sean! I have often stated that the world doesn't care that we have myeloma. It keeps on, keepin' on. The difference now of course, is we don't care so much either. I used to be a really decent housekeeper and I don't care anymore. Dave suggested that perhaps I could care just a little bit! haha

  • Sean Murray (author) said:

    Thanks for your comments Myelomaville friends. It was an unusaul day to say the least! The tornado clean-up continues, the guardrail was replaced, my fevers are gone, infusions are back on track, and I still haven't eaten chicken since my intrepid quest! I asked my Maker to give me interesting days as I make my way down the MM path. I know, I know, I should be careful for what I ask! Keep laughing and fighting hard against our foe. Sean

  • Ed Garbarino said:

    Thanks Sean. I am fairly new to Myeloma and the Beacon. You have a great way of putting it down and I've got something to look forward to as I read the contributions like yours from others who are in the fight. I enjoy the replies as well. You definitely had one of those "days," but you came through a winner. This disease does teach us to put things into the proper perspective. Strange to hear me say this but MM has given me a new way of living. i'm on my 12th day of Revlimid, Dex (80 mg) and i'll get my first Zometa IV on the 20th. So far so good. I have occasional hiccups and thought I might be getting neuropathy Tuesday when I was awakened out of my sleep with a hot poker-like pain in my left foot. No problem since other than some occasional cramping in my hands and right leg. I feel I'm blessed so far in being able to tolerate the therapy. Thanks again for the humor and encouragement. I look forward to the future blogs.

  • John Kay said:

    Thanks for sharing. I too have had problems with the fast-food chicken restaurants in Little Rock. Blessings.

  • Shirley Pike said:

    So glad you and your family were spared by the tornado. We met in the
    waiting room at UAMS as I was rounding up my initial treatment and getting ready for maintenance. You were a good year ahead of me. Since my last check up, I have been getting velcade sub-Q in the stomach. It is just as effective and causes less neuropathy. Have also been taking vitamins (a homemade metinex as my insurance did not cover it and they raised the price to $91 a month)twice daily--folic acid, B6, and B12.
    I can give doses if you are interested. I still have neuropathy but it is mostly finger tips and toes. Don't know if that is better or not, but
    want to do what I can to prevent nerve damage. Keep on truckin' Sean. The two lady friends who went through TT6 with me are both still in complete remission. We are very grateful for the far better odds we have at UAMS.

  • Danni said:

    I loved to read that! May God bless you, Sean!:-)