I went for a routine physical in May 2010. My doctor called and wanted to talk about my blood work. He explained the markers for myeloma were present e.g. M spike, elevated IGG and decreased white and red counts.

I then saw the hematologist for further testing which confirmed the presence of myeloma in the “smoldering” stage. I did not have any symptoms or any damage. I then went every 3 months for blood work and annual bone scan, MRI, and CT. Still no sign of progression.

In December 2013 I started to have numbness in the last 2 fingers of my right hand. Progressing rapidly to the rest of my hand then arm. Then I started to have the most excruciating burning and aching pain in my right arm I have ever experienced.

Due to the holidays I was not able to see my regular doctor and went to and Urgent Care for help. The first time they gave me a muscle relaxer and took a routine X-ray saying they could see bone spurs and bulging discs. A couple of days later I went back and said I needed something for this unbearable pain. I was also seeking relief from chiropractic treatment since I had previous episodes of neck and arm pain related to injuries as a firefighter. However, those episodes were nothing compared to the pain I was experiencing at this time, with no relief.

I was finally able to see my regular doctor who then scheduled an MRI for my neck. The followup from this indicated the myeloma had completely destroyed my C-7 vertebrae. I was scheduled to meet with a neurosurgeon the next day. He confirmed this diagnosis and said I was imminently in danger of being paralyzed from the neck down since the vertebrae was completely destroyed with a gelatinous mass pushing back on my spinal cord causing the immense pain. He immediately scheduled me for surgery. The surgery was successful with the removal of the C-7 mass and the installation of a titanium cage and plate. However, I was now considered to have Active Myeloma and scheduled to begin treatment.

Fortunately, I do not have many side effects from the chemo. I am now in the “induction phase” with the goal of a stem cell transplant later this summer at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. We are all facing a “new normal” in our life’s due to this disease. My Phil-osophy is: HAVE FAITH. BE STRONG. BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE.

— Phil F.

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