Fort Lauderdale, FL; email@example.com
1955 / Class of '98 / Type: Non-secretory / Tandem transplants, remission / Updated: 10/06
Me, 2004: Daughter, 2003:
May, 2003: Tonight is the prom. My daughter has a beautifully beaded dress. I'm anxious to see her in it. These past few weeks and the weeks going forward are so busy with high school graduation activities. Before you know it, it will be the end of summer and she'll be off to Baylor University on an academic scholarship (don't I sound like the proud mother?).
This is the story of lots of kids this year, but what makes us unique is that her mom, me, is here to see it. You see, in January 1998 I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. My doctor told me with my disease as progressed as it was, my life expectancy was somewhere between 3 and 5 years. My daughter (and only child) was 13.
My first thought was "oh no, my daughter is only 13; let me please live to see her graduate high school". My second thought was "thank God, it was me, and not my daughter who was sick". One of the amazing parts of my story is that I'm not only alive, but I'm healthy. I worry about normal things, I'm 48, and how did I get to be this age, what are those wrinkles doing there? silly things, really. I exercise regularly, of course not as much as I should...have to watch my weight and all sorts of perfectly normal everyday life events. I'm thrilled these are my concerns.
I'm responsible for a mortgage operation for a builder in South Florida. So, here's where we are now, but let me tell you about 5 years ago, well actually 6.
I've always been healthy, didn't eat my vegetables like I should, and ate too much cookie dough for dinner, but other than that, considered myself the picture of health.
In the summer of 1997 I started waking up every night with an aching back. Nothing major, just annoying. This went on for months, so I visited a neurosurgeon who sent me for an MRI, x-rays, blood work etc. He didn't find anything, except I was anemic.
From then on my story is like many Myeloma patients, off to more doctors to try and find a diagnosis. I have non-secretory MM so regular tests didn't show the Myeloma. After months and 9 or 10 doctors, I was getting sicker - limping and terrible colds all the time, visiting more doctors with no answers. I never, never dreamed anything was seriously wrong with me.
I finally visited my general practitioner. He did a blood test. I was severely hypercalciumic. Into the hospital I went. Finally a bone marrow biopsy was performed and the Myeloma was diagnosed. As with most Myeloma patients, I had never heard of the disease.
I started the chemo. (VAD). Amazingly, after one round, I achieved complete remission.
I continued Arkansas's protocol and then went on to two transplants.
For any of you that have been there you know what a difficult time this was. I really didn't like being bald; it sent the statement "I have cancer". All I wanted to be was normal. I continued my normal routine as much as possible, working, walking when I wasn't too tired. I had the chemo in a fanny pack so I could go to work. I was always so amazingly tired. I'll tell you what; those transplants are terrible, yet my doctors and nurses said, "I sailed right through them". All is all it was a tough 2 years.
My retired aunt came and stayed with me for a year. She was my nurse, my psychologist, and my " mother". My daughter spent time between my house and my ex husband's as we had always done.
I had a wonderful support system between my family, friends, my employers and employees.
Everyone rallied around me. It was quite remarkable. I mustn't leave out the most important aspect of my strength, my faith in God. His nearness and comfort to me during such an overwhelmingly difficult time was what gave me the strength and courage to continue. For those of you who don't believe, you're missing out. You don't have to go it alone.
So, here we are. I just bought a condo on the water in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. I'll move in approximately 9 months. It's a big year of change with my daughter going off to college and moving from suburbia to the city life. These are the normal stages of life and it's really an exciting time for my daughter. I'm so happy to be alive, and healthy and able to share it with her.
July, 2006: I wrote this story in May 2003. Since then I have run a marathon through the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, at age 50. In May of 2005, my friend and I orchestrated a fund raiser for the Myeloma Institute in Arkansas and raised over $200,000. My daughter will graduate from Baylor in 2007.
October, 2006: I just came back from my check up in Little Rock and still remain in complete remission and perfect health.
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