Mohr’s Myeloma Musings: The Purpose-Driven Myeloma Life
Published: Aug 22, 2014 12:35 pm
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.