A man looks anxious as he weighs an option in each hand

Decisions, Decisions

Hi. My name is Matt. I’m a Libra. I’m a multiple myeloma patient. I like the Minnesota Vikings, dogs, hiking, swimming pools, and a good cold beer. Being a Libra means, I’m open-minded and I’m a horrible decision-maker. Not that I’m a deep believer in astrology, but the Libra scales are an apt and fitting description of me. With any decision, I waffle. I hem and haw. I have buyer’s remorse for almost anything I purchase, big or small. So what often happens is I make no decision, I get stuck. I drive myself crazy. It’s horrible. Over the years, I’ve tried to compensate for my inability to make decisions by making rash, irrational choices. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Often I end up regretting my quick decisions.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote several books that I’m a big fan of, most particularly, The Tipping Point. He also wrote Blink, in which the central premise is that your gut is usually correct and you should go with it. He also said in a related podcast on decision making, that we can never really know if we made the right decision, because we have no idea how the path we didn’t choose would have ended up. I try to remind myself of this when I get stuck in a mental 'what if' loop.

Transplant or no transplant?

With my cancer, I‘ve had to make quick and informed decisions all along the way. Talk about going against the grain. Nine years ago, the big decision to make was transplant or no transplant. Initially, my plan was to do an autologous stem cell transplant. But the local facility I went to for a transplant consult said I didn’t meet their eligibility requirements, given the process might permanently damage my already severely damaged kidneys. At that point, I considered going out of state to a myeloma facility that would do the transplant, but at the same time, I had a consultation with a specialist who is not a transplant proponent. He talked about a patient’s quality of life.

For me, almost miraculously, it was an easy decision. I did a bit of research, talked to friends and family, and choose the non-transplant route. Oh, also note, I’m a bit of a contrarian and have a stubborn streak. So not everyone in my circle agreed with my decision. Even at a support group meeting, I attended once and only once, some patients loudly voiced their disdain for my choice of doctor. Myeloma patients aren’t shy that is for sure. But the naysayers actually helped factor into my decision to go the non-transplant route.

Making informed decisions

Well, I’m just several months from hitting the ten-year mark with myeloma. I feel as good as I have felt since before being diagnosed. My kidneys will never be perfect, but they’re humming along. Finding a good kidney doctor, for me, has been a huge challenge. But I’ve been with the same nephrologist for several years and couldn’t be happier. Fortunately, with this success, I haven’t once questioned my decision on treatment. If I weren’t doing as well as I am, would I be so certain that I did the right thing? It’s hard to know.

For myeloma patients, fortunately, there are so many new choices on treatment. Immunotherapy has been a game-changer. Phew. If someone asks me which path to go for their treatment, I say that it’s different for everyone. Myeloma manifests in many ways. I tell people, see a specialist, make an informed decision, and don’t look back. If you’re informed, be confident in your decisions. Be positive.

And away from myeloma? I’m still a terrible decision maker.

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