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Michelle Chatelin

 

Paris, France

1931 / Class of '95 / Died 9-25-99

My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in the summer of 1995, at 64. She passed away Sept. 25, 1999, in her 69th year. She grew up in rural Vendee, in western France, during World War II, and suffered from food deprivation during part of her teenage years. Later she married my father and they moved to Paris. She smoked, probably for about 10 years. She was never in great health, but MM was the first serious illness she suffered from. 

Sharp back pains in the spring of 1995 prompted the diagnosis. I am missing a lot of the details (such as the exact MM she had) because she was in France at the time, while I was leaving in the U.S. and was just told about the illness by my brothers. 

During the four years between the diagnosis and her death she was treated at St. Louis Hospital in Paris, where apparently the medical team is at the top of mm treatments. Her treatments consisted in an alternation of chemotherapy, Aredia, and bone marrow transplants (I think she had two) and morphine to control the pain. The treatments were painful and difficult to bear, sometimes on a monthly basis for six months at a time. She suffered from nausea, and various infections, while her white blood cells counts were down. She wasted away. She had always been thin, but sometimes reached about 45 kg. The nausea made it very difficult for her to eat after the chemo treatments. 

Despite the treatment's hardship, and between hospital stays, her life was somewhat normal, until early 1999, when it became increasingly difficult for her to walk. That summer she was very weak and still undergoing chemotherapy about every five weeks. Her doctors told my father that she probably had less than a year left to live. Indeed, after spending a month with them, until mid-August, I received the dreaded call August 31. She had been rushed to the ER after having suffered from terribly sharp pains. She was not to get out of the hospital again, as we all now regret (my father talked to the drs about bringing her home, but they said managing the pain would be much more difficult at home than at the hospital). She was conscious for a few days at the hospital, aware that she was living her last days, which gave us all a chance to say goodbye. She was mostly peaceful. Doctors told us that she had probably caught some kind of virus during her last chemotherapy at the hospital and that the infection was taking her. They treated her with very strong antibiotics, and increased progressively the pain killers to the point where she slipped into unconsciousness sometimes during that first week. They were all surprised that she fought so long and so hard. She passed away Sept. 25, in the early afternoon. Her heart stopped beating. There is no describing such a vivid loss but she is not suffering anymore and is at peace. 

Submitted by Claire Chapman (claire.chapman@starpower.net

 

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