Myeloma Lessons: Was It A Good Day Or A Bad Day?
Published: Aug 20, 2014 4:51 pm
A couple of months ago, my girlfriend Audrey and I received email invitations to my grandson Blake’s first birthday party. It was scheduled for June 28.
When Audrey and I discussed the invite later that day, she asked: “You know what that day is?” I thought about it but I drew a blank. She said: “You know … that is THE DAY!”
Then it hit me.
It was June 28, one year prior, that I received the call from my family doctor telling me that the blood test I had taken earlier that day showed that I was severely anemic. I was “encouraged” by the doctor to go to the emergency room immediately to get a transfusion. That started the rather short journey to my multiple myeloma diagnosis.
So after reminding me of the significance of June 28, Audrey said: “That was a really bad day.” I replied, of course, that it was a really good day.
Those people who know Audrey and me well might simply write this off as yet another instance in which we disagree. You see, Audrey and I have been together for quite a while. We share a home and are very happy together. But to say that we are an example of “opposites attract” is a serious understatement. It sometimes seems that we disagree on everything.
Yet our differing views on the significance of the diagnosis are, I think, not uncommon among cancer patients and their caregivers.
For months prior to “The Day,” I had been experiencing symptoms which turned out to be warning signs that I had myeloma.
First, I had a sore spot on my head. Everyone from the woman who cut my hair to my family doctor examined the area and found nothing.
Then, I had some pain in my left shoulder. I thought it was just wear and tear from years of abuse. So I cut out some of the exercises that seemed to aggravate the pain.
Then I had my most severe “symptom,” pain in my back/rib area. I treated it with a combination of chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, and acupuncture for six weeks. I wrote off the difficulty I had breathing while exercising to strained muscles in the rib area.
All of these problems were weighing on me, and I was becoming frustrated by the lack of any improvement.
Audrey was aware of these issues but did not appear to be overly concerned. After all, I have a history of musculoskeletal issues, many the result of overdoing it. They are called overuse injuries. If a part of the body can become inflamed from overuse, I have experienced it.
But for some reason, this latest episode seemed different to me. And when my chiropractor recommended an x-ray which, in turn, showed a broken rib, I suspected something more was at play, since I had suffered no trauma to the area. And when I researched spontaneous rib fractures, none of the likely causes made me feel very good.
The call from my doctor that I had severe anemia and needed an immediate transfusion was shocking to both Audrey and me. However, we had very different views of what it meant. She thought that I probably needed to change my diet. My concerns ran a bit deeper.
I knew that my diet was good enough to prevent severe anemia. I also thought it was unlikely that I was bleeding internally, another potential cause of anemia. So the only thing left was the likelihood that something was “eating” my red blood cells.
The doctor in the emergency room overseeing my transfusion, without saying it directly, confirmed my concerns.
It was only slowly dawning on Audrey that we were dealing with something serious here. She was starting to feel like this might turn out to be a bad day.
I, on the other hand, was starting to see some clarity in my situation. All of the uncertainty that I had been dealing with was beginning to resolve itself. I had a disease that was responsible for these myriad of symptoms. We simply needed to pin down what it was and develop a plan of attack.
I was hospitalized overnight to receive the transfusion. Much blood was taken, and tests were run. We were told that a doctor would be around in the afternoon to talk to us. I was looking forward to the visit.
When the doctor arrived, Audrey, my son Jack, and his fiancée (now wife) Melissa were in the room. The doctor had a grave look on his face. As he began to talk, I could see out of the corner of my eye that Audrey had a look of horror on her face. I was calm and not upset at all when he told us that there was a 95 percent chance that I had multiple myeloma. Confirmation would come with a bone marrow biopsy.
The doctor gave us some general information on treatment options and explained that the hospital had a myeloma expert. I cannot say that I was giddy with the news, but I had a sense of relief. The enemy had been identified. Now we could go to war.
As odd as it sounds, the 24 hours leading up to that point were for me “a good day.”
Audrey had a far different reaction. She was “hit by a truck” and was, not surprisingly, upset. Because she had not lived in my body and my brain for that time of uncertainty, she had no idea that we could be facing something this serious. So, for her, this was “a very bad day.”
I have heard it from both myeloma patients and doctors that one of the real challenges in treating the disease is raising the awareness of the early signs of myeloma in the medical community and the general population. While early detection may not enhance the chances of a real cure for any particular patient, it can certainly help prevent some of the physical consequences of the disease, primarily bone deterioration and kidney damage, which may result from a failure to detect the disease early.
Audrey thought the diagnosis was bad because now we had to deal with a difficult, potentially fatal, disease.
I thought that it was good to know that I had myeloma. I had some bone involvement, but nothing like what some others whom I have met or who have described their condition in the Beacon discussion forums have experienced.
Sometimes it is just good to know the truth.
- Whole-Body MRI Helps Identify MGUS Patients At Risk For Progression To Symptomatic Disease
- Experts Develop Guidelines For Treating Anemia In Multiple Myeloma Patients (IMW 2011)
- ASH 2010 Multiple Myeloma Update – Day One
- The Top Myeloma Beacon Patient And Caregiver Columns Of 2011
- Chromosomal Abnormalities May Influence Myeloma Symptoms At Diagnosis