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Mohr’s Myeloma Musings: The Purpose-Driven Myeloma Life

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Published: Aug 22, 2014 12:35 pm

The passing of Arnie Goodman and Stephen Kramer, two men who I only knew from their writings at The Beacon, impacted me in a way that I never would have thought possible.

I struggled to explain to my 18-year old son why I felt such a loss as a re­sult of two men I didn't know personally. It wasn't until I began writing this column that I realized why.

Both men had a purpose-driven life with multiple myeloma. They im­pacted others through their writings and other activities related to mul­ti­ple myeloma.

Most readers have probably heard of the book “The Purpose Driven Life,” a Christian devotional written by Rick Warren. The publisher of the book claims that it is the highest selling non-fiction hardback book in his­tory, with 32 million copies sold by 2007.

I have not read the book, and it certainly is not my intent to engage in a religious discussion on life with mul­ti­ple myeloma. The main point of the book, however, has permeated mainstream secular discussions about one's purpose in life.

I never really gave much thought to my purpose in life prior to being told two and a half years ago that I had myeloma. If I had been asked that question pre-myeloma, I most likely would have responded, "Be a good husband and dad, and work hard at my job."

I am stating the obvious, but being diagnosed with an incurable disease like multiple myeloma forces one to look at life differently. Dealing with quality of life issues associated with the different treatment regimens causes even deeper introspection.

While I have yet to experience relapse, I am certain that that turn of events can be the biggest factor in de­ter­min­ing our purpose in what time we have left.

And just as the symptoms and conditions we experience, and our reactions to the various treatments we undergo, vary greatly and are individualistic in nature, so does our purpose in life once we become victims of this disease.

What has been enlightening for me is learning about the purpose of the many contributors to The Myeloma Beacon, whether they be columnists, readers commenting on articles, or participants in the Beacon's dis­cussion forum.

For some, the disease is at a stage where survival is the sole purpose in life; finding the inner strength to wage that battle is an all-encompassing task.

Finding new treatment regimens when others have failed might become another person’s primary focus in battling the disease. It is these individuals that I admire. They battle on, searching for that regimen that will improve their fate. In the bigger picture, their persistence and sacrifices in trying new treatments benefit all of us who have this disease, because today's trials and experiments can become tomorrow's routine treat­ments.

Some, because of their family situation, may decide that their purpose is to protect the financial future of their family, and may set out on a life plan to meet that purpose.

Others may join or form support groups, providing help to others while at the same time receiving valuable support for themselves.

Counseling others who suffer from similar medical maladies is an admirable purpose. It’s actually one that I have benefited from myself. I was re-acquainted with my friend Dave after he learned of my diagnosis. He has large-cell non-Hodgkin T-cell lymphoma, a rare and very aggressive form of cancer, and went through an intense treatment regimen, including an allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplant, eight years ago.

He took it upon himself to renew our friendship, which had waned over the past 20 years because I had moved several times due to career changes. His words of advice, support, and motivation in weekly emails or cards helped me to get a healthy perspective on my circumstances and to reinforce what my purpose in life is.

Tremendous amounts of money have been raised by those afflicted with this disease who have made it their purpose to raise funds for medical research on multiple myeloma.

My purpose in life since my myeloma diagnosis has been fairly simple:

Be an example, first and foremost to my two children (who were young adults when I was first diagnosed), but hopefully to many others, that no matter what obstacles one encounters in life, they can be dealt with or overcome. I also hope that my behavior and attitude reflect positively on my religious faith.

I have found that focusing on these two things has made my life with multiple myeloma easier to deal with. It is so easy to become self-absorbed, to think that everything revolves around how we feel, what is happening with our "numbers," and whether our current treatment regimen is working.

Focusing on something beyond ourselves and putting our energies into that, as tough as it may be at times, gives us a higher purpose and gives us something to look forward to, not only in the short term, but also in the long term.

I think we have a whole new perspective on life as a result of being diagnosed with this disease. I suggest that we use this perspective to change or deepen our purpose.

Benjamin Disraeli once said, "The secret of success is constancy of purpose."

My hope is that we can all be constant in our purpose-driven myeloma life.

Steve Mohr is a multiple myeloma patient and columnist at The Myeloma Beacon. You can view a list of his previously published columns here

If you are interested in writing a regular column for The Myeloma Beacon, please contact the Beacon team at .

Photo of Steve Mohr, monthly columnist at The Myeloma Beacon.
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8 Comments »

  • Kim said:

    Good words, Steve, and profoundly important . Discovering my sense of purpose after my diagnoses was key to being able to deal with the diagnoses itself. In addition, it has enriched my life going forward. I have a sense that no matter how long I will be here for, I will accomplish what I was meant to do. I've learned a lot. My life is not just about myself now, but a way to serve others .

  • Lois S said:

    My purpose in life is something I really have thought a lot about since being diagnosed. Like you, I feel my biggest purpose right now is showing my boys how to handle the curves in the road of life. I also try to remember a quote that I read: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle." It helps take the focus off of me. I enjoyed reading your article.

  • Eric said:

    Steve

    Purpose in life is what makes us tick, drives us, and yields satisfaction and blessings. Even without having MM, learning to have purpose yields success and happiness. Even without a shortened life, in years, we will never be able to conquer all the desires of our heart. Many men of ancient history, like Noah, Abraham, Joshua, etc, died old and satisfied because their lives had purpose and they achieved successes and overcame challenges, but not every desire of their heart. They focused and prioritized, achieved outstanding results and blessings for themselves and others.

    Love for God above all and love for our neighbor as ourself, gives our life purpose and yields success no matter how many years we have, MM or not. Arnold Goodman and Stephen Kramer showed great love for the MM community, their neighbors, by openly discussing their good and bad times, unreservedly, for our benefit. Wow were we blessed to have their viewpoints, feelings, strength given to us, their neighbors who they had never met personally.

    I personally have benefitted from every word written on the first hand accounts of the Myeloma Beacon. No doubt the advice and experience has given me greater longevity than not having read these articles. But most importantly, the first hand accounts reinforce the saying in my own heart, that 'out of the heart's abundance, the mouth speaks.' Thanks to all the authors for their love shown to the MM community.

  • Steve Mohr (author) said:

    Kim - It took me longer than you to find my purpose, as I went through the "watch and wait" approach for over 18 months. It wasn't until I began treatment that my approach and attitude changed.

    Lois - Your statement that "everyone you meet is fighting a battle" is so true. I think it goes even further than that, in that there is always someone fighting a tougher battle than you. One only has to have walked the halls of a major cancer center to know that.

    Eric - Well said. Far better written than what I did. I too benefit from what I read at The Beacon, regardless of whether it's a column, forum posting, or news article.

  • Nancy Shamanna said:

    Hi Steve , I enjoyed reading your column and think you are good to 'lead by example'. Wishing you all the best and hope you also take time for yourself to recover from the ASCT and enjoy life!

  • Steve Mohr (author) said:

    Nancy - My recovery from the transplant is going well. Two months from being discharged I have no bone pain, neuropathy, and fatigue and have been back to work full time for 6 weeks now. I know there is much debate on the need for stem cell transplants, but, in my case, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be feeling this good 2 months after leaving the hospital.

  • Tabitha Burns said:

    Steve, thank you for your heartfelt column, and its poignant message. I am thankful that we have your voice in our community, and I'm so glad to hear that you're feeling well since your ASCT. Wishing you celebrations, happy days and continued good health!

  • Keith Bradshaw said:

    Dear Steve,

    I also have myeloma, but two stem cell transplants later after relapsing I am going ok. A full time and demanding job as a CEO and a beautiful family makes for a very full and lucky life.

    You put into words what I have been thinking for some time but have not found the right words to express. It is, as you say, not just the obvious things that are important when it comes to working out what our purpose in life is. It is so important not to be self absorbed regarding our condition (as that is a never ending downward cycle) and to be an an example to our children (I have 4 plus 2 step children). Those words have truly resonated with me. Powerful.

    Thank you for your wise words. You have a gift ... and good luck!

    Regards,
    Keith