Northern Lights: Myeloma Magnet
Published: Apr 11, 2014 2:51 pm
Since my family have jobs in the health care field, I tend to hear a lot about medical problems.
I therefore had heard of multiple myeloma before my own diagnosis. Even though I knew of some people who had this disease, I have to admit that I didn’t know much about it, except that it is a blood cancer.
After receiving my diagnosis, the number of people with myeloma I heard about skyrocketed, since everybody around me seemed to go out of their way to tell me about their loved ones or friends, or even acquaintances, who have had multiple myeloma.
Since my treatments began, I met other myeloma patients in person and heard about many more, which I don’t think is unusual given that I was now more involved with myeloma.
I was nevertheless shocked when, just three months after my own diagnosis in 2009, a member in my bagpipe band was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Isn’t that odd?
It actually frightened me that a fellow piper was diagnosed with the same rare cancer at almost the same time. I put away my bagpipes and didn’t play them again until I was encouraged to play for our support group’s walk / run in 2012.
While my fellow piper and I have hypothesized about potential explanations for our almost simultaneous diagnoses (environmental carcinogens), I have had other experiences over the years that make me wonder about my role in myeloma.
For example, how do you explain the uncanny events that happened to me recently?
This past January, I was on a short flight from Calgary to Comox, British Columbia, for a visit with my mother, one of my sisters, and other family. I had a window seat. Seated on the aisle was another woman about my age. We started to discuss retirement and ‘empty nester’ types of hobbies (I am not yet retired, but have more free time now than I did when I was younger). She was taking up playing bridge, and I told her that in recent years I had started to write a column for The Myeloma Beacon. I had a paper copy of my latest column in my bag for my uncle, who does not have a computer (my mother also takes my columns to her book club since one of the members has a friend with multiple myeloma).
I handed her the column, and with a startled expression on her face she told me that her brother-in-law had just died of myeloma, 18 years after his diagnosis.
The next day, my mom, my sister, and I were out shopping in Courtenay after a bracing beach walk in a storm that in Alberta would have been called a blizzard. The winds were so strong that we could barely face into the wind.
When we arrived at the mall, my mother was tired so we sat down at a table. I looked up and belatedly saw a sign above our table saying ‘For Keno Customers Only.’ Keno is a sort of lottery game that requires customers to fill out cards with their lucky numbers.
An elderly man came and sat next to us. He was filling out his cards. He mentioned that his wife had been in the hospital for quite a while with cancer, and that he was on his way to visit her. I asked him what kind of cancer, he replied a blood cancer. More questions revealed that his wife was in hospital with multiple myeloma.
As a patient, a support group member, a patient advocate, and a column writer, it is perhaps not too surprising that I do hear of quite a few people with the same diagnosis.
However, the two recent encounters in just two days with people whose loved ones had multiple myeloma left me with a somewhat eerie feeling. Could this be ESP?
My sister calls me a myeloma magnet. Perhaps I am attracting people who have a connection to myeloma, much like a magnet attracts iron filings.
Another incident last year gave me a similar eerie feeling.
When my editor and I were in the process of finalizing one of my columns, she suggested the catchy title of ’Watching the Detectives,’ which is the title of a song from Elvis Costello. As some of you may know, Elvis is married to Diana Krall, a jazz piano player and singer, whose mother passed away from myeloma in 2002, after a six-year struggle with the disease. Elvis and Diana have been major fundraisers for myeloma treatment and research, and they have been philanthropists for the Vancouver General Hospital.
Have you experienced the same uncanny effects of being more than ever before aware of myeloma in your circle of friends and acquaintances? Does myeloma connect you with people you never expected? Or is it the just the awareness that we are all only two or three ‘degrees of separation’ away from all the other people on the planet?
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The quotation for this month is from Henry Reed (1914 - 1986), a British poet, translator, and journalist, who wrote: “The sixth sense is at the core of our experiences. It is what makes experiences out of events.”
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