Meeting Another Blood Cancer Survivor: Ramae's View
Last updated: December 2022
It was a warm August night, and I was on my nightly bike ride along the lake. But this evening, I was on my way to meet up with another blood cancer survivor. Deb Wesloh, who also writes for Blood-Cancer.com, was in town, and we were finally going to meet in person.
I was excited to share our stories and wondered how similar and different they would be. In separate articles, we each share our takeaways from our visit in ways that surprised us!
Blood-Cancer.com brought us together
Deb was diagnosed in 2016 at age 54 with a rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera, or PV. She started writing for Blood-Cancer.com in May 2018 after submitting her cancer story to the site.
I began writing for Blood-Cancer.com one year later in 2019. Before that, I had been writing on CaringBridge and an online blog. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (MM) in 2018 at the age of 47.
So much in common besides blood cancer
Deb sent me a message saying that her family would be in town for the Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival, my favorite summer event. Hundreds of people gather on the banks of Lake Bemidji to watch 20-person-teams race each other in long, narrow boats called Dragon Boats.
I was surprised that she would come all the way from Texas to this small northern Minnesota town. But as we talked, I found out why. She had many of the same ties to Bemidji as I did! We had both graduated from the university here and competed in the same collegiate sports: cross country running, nordic skiing, and track and field. We missed each other by only 5 years, so we remembered many of the same people. What are the odds?!
And like me, she also has family here. Her brother-in-law and I have even crossed paths at the local dog park!
Different blood cancers, different treatments
Although we both have been diagnosed with blood cancer, our cancers and treatments are very different. PV causes the bone marrow to make too many red blood cells, which thickens the blood and causes platelets and red and white blood cells to be very high. Deb takes medication to lower her blood counts.
I wish I had more white blood cells! MM is a cancer of white blood cells called plasma cells. In my case, they crowded out healthy cells in the bone marrow of my femur and caused it to break. Unlike Deb, my white blood cell counts have been below average since I began treatment. I am always low in neutrophils (white blood cells that fight infection) and need to take special precautions to avoid things that could make me sick.
And unlike Deb, I needed a stem cell transplant as part of my treatment. Even though it was nearly 4 years ago, I feel like I am still recovering. A maintenance medication keeps the myeloma at bay, but its side effects seem harder on me. Deb and I still enjoy being active, but she rides a regular bike, while my e-bike has a battery and powerful motor.
Blood cancer connections help us feel less alone
It was nice to meet Deb in person and learn that we have so much in common. We could have talked for hours, but the sun had to set eventually. We hope to keep meeting every year during the Dragon Boat Festival.
Talking with other blood cancer survivors helps us feel more connected and less alone. I am so grateful to the Blood-Cancer.com community for connecting me with Deb and all of you. Do you have any stories of meeting other blood cancer survivors? I would love to hear about them in the comments!
How do you feel about your support system?