A woman looking at different cards for life milestones and seeing one for her stem cell transplant birthday

Turning 10...Again!

Celebrating life’s milestones is part of our DNA. When walking down the card aisle in any drug store, the variety of cards displayed remind us of the important occasions we commemorate: birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, the birth of a child, retirement, and buying your first home to name a few. Scrolling through the pictures posted on Instagram or on a Facebook news feed reinforces the fact that we love to recognize these special events.

Turning double digits

One of the first milestones I remember celebrating is turning double digits. Turning 10 was marked with a huge party and a brand spanking new 10 speed kelly green Schwinn bicycle. I remember blowing out the candles on my cake. That year I had the number “10” along with 11 individual candles to blow out. (Mom always put an extra candle on my birthday cake for good luck) Turning ten was a BIG deal.

New cancer milestones

Milestones developed even more significance when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.  When I was first diagnosed, I was frightened. The prognosis for someone like me was 29 months. My only daughter was a freshman in college.  I knew I wanted to be there to see her graduate from college in 48 months.  Would that be possible? Being present at my daughter’s college graduation gave me reason to empower myself to learn all I could about my cancer and the treatment options available to me. I wanted to do everything possible to be there on her graduation day. The milestone of my daughter’s graduation gave the strength to move forward and defy the odds.

Milestones and cancer go hand in hand.  Not only do individuals living with a cancer diagnosis celebrate the common milestones mentioned above, they have a new set of milestones to acknowledge. For a myeloma patient, two of the most common cancer milestones are the date of diagnosis (cancerversary), and the anniversary of a stem cell transplant (re-birthday).

Recognizing cancer milestones are personal

We choose to recognize these important dates in our own way. Some of my fellow survivors have run marathons or skied treacherous slopes.  Others have traveled to beloved destinations. I have friends who have organized fundraisers that raised thousands of dollars for myeloma research to commemorate significant milestones and others who reflected quietly at home with family. There is no correct way to recognize these life-changing dates. We each are unique individuals so we each acknowledge these events in the ways that best fit our lives.

Since my myeloma diagnosis, I have retired from teaching 5th graders and have become a teacher in the myeloma community. I sought and found a renewed purpose in life. I cherish my new role as a patient advocate. It gives my life meaning.

10 year anniversary of my stem cell transplant

I turned 10 AGAIN this year.  February 26 marked the 10th anniversary of my stem cell transplant.  Each year, I honor this significant day in a special way. It is only fitting that I celebrated my 10th re-birthday by traveling to Silver Springs, MD to give patient testimony at an Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) meeting for Selinexor at the FDA. This was an important meeting for the myeloma community. Selinexor’s potential FDA approval will be discussed and evaluated. Patient testimony is pivotal. I am honored to have represented the collective patient voice at the ODAC meeting. Turning 10 again is a BIG deal and I am doing it in a BIG way... my way!

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