Every once and awhile I must take inventory of why I call my blog Old and Blessed. Of course, most of my consciousness of being blessed stems from my years-long survival with Multiple Myeloma. If you’ve followed me in the blogosphere, you are familiar with my journey. It’s been one loaded with challenges galore. At the risk of ad nauseam, I will probably continue to write occasionally about my cancer journey. I do this in the chance that someone experiencing similar circumstances might find a bit of encouragement from my good, God-given fortune.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the time my journey with Multiple Myeloma began. Recently, I could almost feel the fatigue I experienced when I returned to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Cancer Institute after being sent home with my first chemotherapy contraption attached. I felt fine going home and moving about the house, no problem; however, making my way down the halls of UAMS later for my return visit to the cancer center was a new experience. Have you ever been so tired that you just want to be a blob, spread out wherever you are and not move because you haven’t the energy to do so? Chris was driving because my energy level was in the negative. I slowly got out of the car to make my way to the clinic, which wasn’t that closely located to the entrance. A few steps into the building made the case: wheelchair sorely needed!
That first infusion of chemo was traumatic to my body. Chemotherapy did get less traumatizing from that point. My care team had advised me that I would experience mouth sores, puking my guts out (my terminology, not theirs), severe fatigue, and a few other discomforts in the days to come. The fatigue did come, but no mouth sores or constant need to address the toilet for gastronomical purging. I would consider that a blessing. Wouldn’t you?
My treatment called for a stem cell transplant. Normally, close relatives are tested for donor compatibility. Although two of my siblings were more than willing to donate cells, they weren’t suitable donors. This meant the stem cells had to come from me. The explanation of the procedure given to me by my care team didn’t make me feel very good. First, I had to have apheresis done. This procedure, without being too technical, draws blood from me and separates stem cells while returning what’s not necessary for the transplant to my body. I was told that it would probably take three to four days of sitting for this procedure to collect sufficient stem cells for my transplant. It took one sitting to collect more than enough stem cells. Another blessing, don’t you think so?
It was necessary to give me Melphalan (chemotherapy) to essentially destroy my immune system before the stem cells were introduced into my body. This is some nasty stuff. Not too long after being given the Melphalan, my body hair from even the most remote regions of my anatomy simply vacated the premises. I’m skipping forward here to make it very clear that I went into complete remission within a relatively short period of time. Since one of the nurse practitioners on my care team told me sometime later that I was in “bad shape” when I was diagnosed, compete remission was a blessing for sure.
I spent a lot of time in the chemo treatment room for the first year or so, and I spent a lot of time with other Myeloma warriors. I never got used to showing up for an appointment, looking for someone I had spent time with, as we sat side by side in recliners, only to find out they had died. My journey started when I was diagnosed in March 2,000 and it continues until now. I’m no longer in remission. As a matter of fact, I haven’t been there for over three years. With the advancements in treating Myeloma patients since I was diagnosed, I’m now living with this disease and living well. I’ve come to appreciate in ways I never would have imagined back in 2,000 how valuable the OLD in Old and Blessed truly is. Blessed for sure…
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.