I like sports metaphors. Before retiring, I had a secret goal of putting in place a Monday morning tradition where my department’s co-workers were introduced, ala sports introductions, with walk-up songs and pomp and circumstance. In hindsight, perhaps I should have aimed for a pilot program. But I never had the chance or gall to try it or even suggest it. I also often synchronize my experiences, good and bad, with the trials and tribulations of the Minnesota Vikings. I’ll sheepishly admit that earlier this year, I foolishly announced to friends and family, that after 50 plus years of Vikings obsession that they had broken me, and I was looking for a new team.
I went through a whole March Madness bracket-style tournament to find my new team. I landed on the Los Angeles Chargers. Given I was born, raised, attended college, and continue to live in the Los Angeles area, the Chargers made sense. For the uninitiated, it probably made more sense than me being a Minnesota Vikings fan. But after two days of proclaiming my adoption of the Chargers, guilt kicked in. I started to feel like I had cheated on my first love. Furthermore, I not only felt like I was cheating on the Vikings, I believed I was cheating on the entire state of Minnesota. It’s no exaggeration to say that my Vikings fandom has grown over the decades to a love of all things Minnesota. I can’t just abandon that. So, I’m stuck with the Vikings and stuck with Minnesota. And it’s important to not cavalierly abandon what makes me, me.
Some advice for newly diagnosed patients
When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2011, I had never heard of this incurable cancer. I started googling the disease and was petrified. Nowadays, if I talk to a newly diagnosed patient, I suggest minimizing googling the disease. Just do the basics, such as finding a myeloma specialist and reading positive stories from patients who have lived with the disease for a while.
I also suggest looking into three organizations: the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, and the International Myeloma Foundation. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has a program called the First Connection Program. It is a peer to peer connection program, that will connect newly diagnosed blood cancer patients with someone who has been living with the same disease. It’s a wonderful program.
Also, when diagnosed, I researched the best myeloma facilities. One such location is the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In lighter moments, I was pleased that finally I would get to live in my favorite state. Too bad it took cancer to get me there. But I never made it to the Mayo Clinic.
Finding my perfect team
Living in Los Angeles, I had a choice of top facilities and doctors to choose from in my own backyard. After consulting with a number of local myeloma specialists and kidney doctors, I eventually had the perfect team.
Yesterday I saw my myeloma specialist and kidney doctor. These were just routine check-ins to review my latest labs. Everything looks great. I’ve been on my current regimen for almost four years and it’s been the best thing yet since being diagnosed. I have several other doctors, all there to help me deal with the disease and the side effects of the disease and treatment. I am comfortable and confident with all my doctors and nurses. I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am, if it weren’t for my team, including my wife who is my partner in all this and my caregiver.
A team that is built for the long haul
With retirement, we’re considering moving. But where to go, is the big question. There are times, I think it could be anywhere and I’d simply recreate my medical team somewhere else. But other times, I think it took a whole lot of work to put this team together and I’d hate to try to recreate it. I suppose if I were a half-day drive away from L.A., I could keep my specialists for occasional, as-needed visits and then have local doctors in my new home base. I know lots of patients do this. And then there are times, where I think, it’s now or never in terms of giving Minnesota a shot. But I doubt I can convince my wife to move somewhere with harsh winters. And being honest with myself, I’m not sure my old, achy bones could handle below-freezing winters.
And as a final note, the reason I was ready to cheat on the Vikings was they traded away my favorite player. It’s happened many times before. It’s the nature of the business. But this time, it hit me hard. But I recognize their goal is to put together a winning team, that functions as one, and they didn’t trade the player to upset me specifically. And for me, that’s the nature of fighting my cancer, I want a team that I’m comfortable with, and is built for the long haul and for winning, i.e. surviving.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?