At the age of 35 I was denied life insurance and told to contact my primary care provider. My family doctor of 15 years at the time told me not to worry, life insurance companies run so many tests, oftentimes patients don’t pass all of them. Besides, I was the picture of perfect health. He ran the tests that the life insurance company showed that my numbers reflected as “abnormal” and told me that he would call me within a week.

Two days later while I was at work he called and said I needed to get to the lab that day and have some more blood work done. I explained I couldn’t, I was on the way to court with a foster child. He was adamant, as was I – I was a Child Protective Services Social Worker at the time and I loved my job. It was a Friday and there was no way this child – or the courts could wait until Monday, he told me the same thing. We compromised on Saturday for the lab work, I still was not concerned as I felt fine.

The following Wednesday I went in for the results and was told that I may have something known as MGUS, but he wanted to refer me to a specialist – I still was not worried. I week later the referral card came in the mail with my appointment for the Oncology Department – I had no idea what Oncology even was and wasn’t concerned.

Ever the optimist, I walked into my appointment knowing that everything was going to be fine – how couldn’t it be? I had a husband, 2 children in school and a wonderful job. Besides, I felt great! I met with the Oncologist who did a bone marrow biopsy and told me to return a few days later for the results.

We returned, my husband the pessimist and me reading a book without a care in the world – sure it was negative – when the doctor walked it. He looked at me and said, “Well, you’ve got Multiple Myeloma.” My eyes welled up with tears and his next sentence was, “Why are you crying?” That was my last time seeing that doctor.

What I have learned over the years is that I am in charge of the decisions regarding my health – and many times I have to fight for what I want. I sometimes make decisions that go against the norm, but here I am – 8.5 years later and I am my doctors longest living Multiple Myeloma patient.

I decided which treatments I wanted to follow and 8 months ago I called up my doctor and told him I had decided to quit taking my maintenance chemotherapy. I struggle daily, it’s not from the Myeloma – it’s from the side effects of the treatments, medications that I have chosen to take to fight this cancer. I do not regret those choices because they have kept me here to see my children grow up.

I tell people the best thing they can do is follow their gut and do what feels right for them – individually. Do your research, but don’t let Multiple Myeloma run your life.

In the beginning, I was consumed by my diagnosis. Now, I don’t worry about it. Yes, I have choices to make occasionally but the truth is that I don’t have any control over this intruder in my body. I am not going to let it intrude on my mind and my spirit as well.

— Kristen R. 

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