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Man split in half. Half of him is on the TV show Survivor and the other half is getting chemo

Not the Buff I Wanted

On August 3, 2017, I was officially given my buff for the Myeloma Tribe. Yep, that’s right, I was now in my battle to be a “Survivor” of multiple myeloma; my brand new, very own, reality show. I didn’t know on that day that I probably wouldn’t make it to the final vote count, but I did know I was going to do what was needed to “Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast” this thing for as long as possible. Unfortunately, my season was going to take a little longer than 39 days.

Welcome to the Myeloma Tribe

I have to admit I’ve always been a reality TV enthusiast. Not shows like Big Brother or The Kardashians. My tastes leaned, and still lean more to shows that require not only social guile but a greater sense of adventure, particularly Survivor.

For years it had been a fantasy of mine to be a contestant on Survivor. I fancied myself as someone that could play the social game, and at one time was definitely in good enough physical condition to hold my own. I’m even a pretty good puzzle solver. It was my strategy that needed work. Was I a hero or a villain? Unfortunately, while I fantasized about all of this, little did I know, I’d end up playing a game of real life “Survivor”.

The other night, as I was watching the finale of the newest season, it finally dawned on me that a lot of what happened on the show mirrored what had been happening in my life the past year, or vice versa. there are sure to be a lot of people that made this connection a lot quicker than I did. What can I say? Maybe, it was so in my face, I just couldn’t see it. Sort of like trying to find something in the refrigerator.

The blindside

It all started with the blindside. Things in my life were going as well as I could wish for. I felt as healthy as a horse, was running at least 15 miles a week, going to the gym a couple times a week, working my new business very hard, and finally turning a reasonable profit. It felt like I was close to the top of the pecking order and had made good alliances with a healthy lifestyle and good planning. There was also no way I would need my Immunity Idol anytime soon.

Then, on that memorable day May 25, 2017, when my first vertebrae collapsed, I started realizing that I may have some problems I had’t expected. That idol was looking like it may be in play. As more vertebrae collapsed over the next six weeks, I realized the Tribal Council vote may not go my way. I had to make a decision. Do I play it or not……?

My real life immunity challenge

Let’s fast forward to now. I’m now getting closer to my one-year re-birthday, been through countless back operations, a couple of kidney procedures, the whole chemo and radiation dance, a serious case of cellulitis, and many other real ups and downs. I have won some personal reward challenges, like when I was able to go on a mini beach vacation with my family prior to my stem cell transplant. I haven’t hit remission yet, so the jury is still out on what my next steps will be. The ultimate irony is that I’m now in a real-life immunity challenge. Yeah, real immunity…. you know, white blood cells, immunoglobulins, light chains, M spikes and all that interesting stuff you don’t know about, until you have to know about it.

Did I make the right play?

Did I play my idol? You bet! I wasn’t going to let that blindside get me out of this game. I’m going to keep playing and do everything possible to make sure that my torch gets snuffed when I’m d**n well ready. I like being a survivor. Time to go search for another idol…

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • charlamoyer
    6 days ago

    Great thoughts! My husband had his transplant today! We feel very loved and supported! Would love to hear more about after the transplant. I’m praying that we get remission quickly! Best wishes for you and keep on keeping on!❤️

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    2 days ago

    @charlamoyer I hope your husband is doing well after his BMT. I’m even happier you have the support team in place for the care received- kudos!
    Best in getting to remission soon!

  • Ronni Gordon
    3 months ago

    Those vertebrae collapsing must have been so scary! Sorry you had to go through that plus all the operations.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    3 months ago

    Nicely said!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    3 months ago

    I too love Survivor and have watched every season, so I love how you used the game to tell your story. I wish you the best of luck and will say a prayer for you. Good luck!

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    3 months ago

    Cheers, Mr. Survivor! This was like a capture from Destiny’s Child Survivor-
    “We comin’ in this game like some survivor’s
    And we leavin’ this game like some survivor’s
    So from now, until we dead and gone
    We gon’ be some survivors, ya heard me?”

  • Mike Padjen author
    3 months ago

    Yolanda, that’s awesome! I love the lyrics. Thanks!

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Mike,
    Fitting indeed 🙂

  • Bob McEachern
    3 months ago

    Hi Mike. Nice to know I’m not the only one who still watches Survivor!
    More importantly, I think you nailed the similarities. It’s always interesting to see interviews with Survivor contestants who say you really can’t fully understand it unless you’ve lived through the experience. Yup…..
    Be well.

  • Mike Padjen author
    3 months ago

    Hey Bob, glad to hear there are other Survivor fans out there. Evidently there’s a few of us. The 38th season started tonight. Just hope we don’t have to go through any more seasons ourselves.😉

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