Next, I had to psych myself into thinking positive. Yes, I have cancer but I am not in pain, I am still going about my daily life doing all the things I love to do, and I’m able to spend time with all the people I love.
First you need to know I have always been on top of every mammogram, visits to my ob/gyn, cholesterol and blood screenings, colonoscopies. I am also the person who nagged my husband and other family members until they made their annual check-ups happen. But I guess no matter how pro-active you are with your health something’s going to get you sooner or later. I know that does not sound like the upbeat, positive person y’all have come to know. I have to admit what I am sharing with you has knocked me for a loop, and telling my mom and sisters was the hardest part.
I caught cancer EARLY.
After years of on-going bronchitis and sinus infections, that even prednisone did not get rid of, my allergist said he wanted to do extensive blood work. This is much different than the typical blood panel done during your annual physical. He freaked me out when he sent me to an oncologist, but it was there that they found my IGG level, which measures immune function, was very low, which is why I have been unable to fight infection. However, my blood work also showed that I had smoldering myeloma. This is an early stage of multiple myeloma. I was shocked to say the least.
I could not believe this never showed up in any blood test I had over the years. This is an important reminder for everyone. If things are not right with your health, see a hematologist, which is a blood specialist. What is done in a general doctor’s office is a totally different animal. Who knew? Of course I was freaked out, and still am. No one in my family has ever had cancer that we know of, as it’s usually heart issues, or Alzheimer’s, all bad enough, that have shortened the lives of people I have loved.
Next came the bone marrow biopsy. That’s where I got good news, as there may be cancer in my blood, but none in my bones. I caught this early. Thank you, Lord! Knowing smoldering myeloma can turn into multiple myeloma down the road, I am now on a regular three-month regime, seeing an oncologist here, and every six months I go to MUSC in Charleston, to a multiple myeloma specialist. I also do a bi-monthly infusion to boost my immune system, trying to remain healthy.
Sadly, most people who get this disease do not find it until they break a bone. Mine is smoldering in my blood with fifty percent good cells and fifty bad. My mom, who has always had a warped and funny way of looking at things, said that smoldering myeloma sounded like “a recipe gone wrong!” Come to think of it, in a way, she is right.
Ironically, five months prior to my diagnosis I did a TV interview with Janet Kerrigan, a former nurse here in Myrtle Beach, who not only has multiple myeloma, but is the coordinator for this type of support group all over the country. She was my first phone call. She reminded me that this type of cancer has lots of treatment options, and she invited me to come anytime to the local support group which meets the second Thursday of every month, at 4pm, at Tidelands Oncology in Murrells Inlet. Because I still work, I have yet to be able to attend, but knowing Janet is just around the corner is comforting.
Next, I had to psych myself into thinking positive. Yes, I have cancer but I am not in pain, I am still going about my daily life doing all the things I love to do, and I’m able to spend time with all the people I love. I am not on any debilitating treatment yet, and having caught this crazy thing early I am able to tackle the illness head-on.
The purpose of this article is certainly not to garner sympathy, even though hugs are always appreciated. I want everyone to know that when faced with a chronic illness you need a health advocate. I used to be the take-control-type, going into the doctor’s office lined up with medical questions and ammunition to fight any battle. Now, I have turned into a wimp. Yes, I admit it. I can barely think straight as I face each appointment, shaking in my boots with anxiety, nausea and fear. It’s almost like I don’t want to know! Yet that’s ridiculous. My wonderfully supportive husband, Chuck, is with me through every test, report, and appointment as a second set of ears as well as a hand to hold. We have sat in the parking lot outside of doctors’ offices and shared tears at times, and said prayers of thanks when the tests showed that I was stable.
“Stable” has become a beautiful word.
I also want folks to know that you have to “find the good in it.” How can you find the good in being diagnosed with a disease that can take your life? Let me explain, as I learned a valuable lesson from a dear friend, Billy Roberts, during a TV interview years ago. Billy’s wife died of ovarian cancer. As he was talking to me about it, he said these words I will never forget. “Whenever something bad happens, you have to find the good in it, as it is the only way to cope.” He explained he was able to come on TV and warn women about this type of cancer and preventative tests that unfortunately his wife learned of too late. Billy was making something good happen as a result of something bad.
And so I am doing much the same as Billy. I am passing valuable info onto all of you. Make that doctor’s appointment. Have that test. Perhaps it’s time to have extensive blood work with a specialist who can give you a full picture of what’s really going on with your health. This is a great idea for a New Year’s resolution, one you can easily keep! If you are not feeling well, dig deeper even if it results in a bad diagnosis, as finding out early is far better than being too late to do anything about it. When given negative news, have a health advocate who can think straight and ask the right questions at all your medical appointments. And for your sanity, “find the good in it.” Coupled with the love and prayers from family and friends, and faith in God’s plan you and I can get through anything!