My journey began in 2001. I was working as a registered nurse, coming off of 3 back to back 12 hour shifts. My 11 year old had an away soccer tournament, my sister was going with me to drive and see the games. I felt extremely tired and felt like I was coming down with something. I couldn’t hold anything on my stomach. I had projectile vomiting, spontaneous nose bleeds, chest pain, and pain down my arm and an ache in my jaw. I thought I was having a cardiac episode or at least high blood pressure. It runs in our family history.
After the weekend I went to the ER where I worked. I was really sick. I also had lost 30 lbs. without trying and had pain in my ribs and tailbone area. My doctor and I attributed it to the hysterectomy for uncontrolled bleeding 3 months prior. I had blood drawn, urine test, and a chest X-Ray. It showed 3 broken ribs, pneumonia and my blood counts were all out of whack. Including my electrolytes, and also, my kidneys were shutting down and I was dehydrated.
The doctor said I had a classic case of multiple myeloma but he had to wait for the results of a bone marrow biopsy. Further X-rays showed lesions throughout my spine and a large one in the scrum (tailbone) area. Sure enough the diagnosis was multiple myeloma Stage 3+. I was admitted and the next day the oncologist came in and told me I had 6 months to live.
I was a single mom with 5 kids, my youngest 7 years old, and I was devastated.
The doctors that I worked with, came to visit and told me that if they were my loved ones, they would transfer me to City Of Hope and later that day I was transferred. The cncologist at City of Hope examined me then sat down to talk. He said, “I have examined you from head to toe and no where did I find an expiration date.” He told me to fight hard and together we would see my children grow up.
I underwent heavy chemo. I was put on the first and only myeloma drug, Thalidomide, and radiation on the biggest lesions and a Auto Stem Cell Transplant (ASCT) a year later. I finally reached remission in 2002 and have stayed in remission, now 16 years later.
I have had many bumps in the road: 14 pathological fractures (hip replacement twice, right femur, 3 ribs, right collar bone, 5 compression fractures and both feet, the 5th metatarsals). I had breast cancer in 2006, both breasts with a mastectomy then a recurrence of the breast cancer on the right chest wall with a lumpectomy and radiation in 2015. I have had many removals of beta and squamous cell skin cancers since 2002. But, what is most important is that I am a Warrior and Survivor and Never Ever gave up!
I got to see all 5 of my children grow into adults, get careers, get married and I now have 11 grandchildren to see grow up. God has been good and by my side the whole way. I believe in the power of prayer and have seen miracles In my line of work and believe I Am One. If there has been a silver lining, it’s the incredible people I have met along this journey and the strength I never knew I had. I Am Proud Of The Warrior I Have Become!
My One Bit Of Advice: Go to a comprehensive cancer center that has specialists in multiple myeloma, that has access in the latest myeloma knowledge and treatments. New Information, medications and treatment plans are changing quickly. Over the time I have had multiple myeloma I have seen many changes, so you want to have your doctor to have the latest Information available. Knowledge is Power!
– Marcia H.