Multiple Myeloma and Status

I was very sad to hear of the recent passing of General Colin Powell. His death as reported was due to complications from COVID-19, as well as suffering from a number of other compromising illnesses, one being that of multiple myeloma. Naturally, I did a double-take in hearing the actual words “multiple myeloma.

How do we talk about blood cancer?

Oftentimes, we hear of blood cancer as a grouped illness, but hearing those words specifically made me shudder - here goes MM again causing havoc, even with the former general. I do find it interesting that news of a famous person's passing or diagnosis with this disease brings up some questions. First, why not clarify the exact disease, rather grouping it as a blood cancer? Secondly, why not address additional details explaining the disease?

I totally understand when families and the patient may not want to be specific. I mean, it’s really no one’s business- right? I think the consensus can be that the more people talk about it, the better-informed people can be with their own diagnosis.

I know we live in a world where, honestly, it’s a big deal thanks to social media, that people are allowed a growing following, more so when they’re a celebrity or distinguished in some form. The fans want to know, but do they have a right to personal information? Absolutely not. But when we’re talking about this type of disease, the more eyes stirring a conversation helps gain additional momentum in research and education when the words myeloma is in the mix.

To share or not to share a myeloma diagnosis?

I have to say in the years speaking about my own plight with multiple myeloma, the comments from some people started and ended with “You’re doing great, but I had a friend, neighbor, or family who had it and died.” I would be left feeling so sad knowing that I’m surviving and, guess what, there are plenty more like me, and like you out there, that are still fighting through it all. The more stories of myeloma (or just saying the name) the world learns, and we take steps towards recognition to a not-so-nice disease.

Celebrity vs. the rest of us

Is there a difference between how we cope with our disease versus someone at a different plateau of worth? Absolutely not, sickness and death come in all forms when life happens. I recall doing research on exactly who were some of the celebrities we knew about that had multiple myeloma. I was blown away:

  • Roy Scheider (actor)
  • Sam Walton (founder of Walmart)
  • Geraldine Ferraro (politician)
  • Jim Davis (actor)
  • Peter Boyle (actor)
  • Gilbert Moses (filmmaker, activist)
  • Elijah Alexander (athlete)
  • Tom Brokow (journalist)
  • Charles Grodin (comedian, actor)
  • Keith Elam (rapper and member of Gang Starr, AKA Guru)

The death of Keith Elam resonated with me more as he was very young at the time of his death (48), and I grew up listening to his work, and he was African American which showed another face such as me.

Starting a conversation about multiple myeloma

So what does this all mean? Basically, anything can happen to any of us at any time, and I suppose when we see people dealing with the same predicament, it opens up a conversation as well as kindred heart when it concerns multiple myeloma.

The time to fight is now, with integrity, grace, hope, and a smile….when you feel like it.

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