Perspective (Part 1)
Editor’s note: Blood-Cancer.com recently talked to a community member battling blood cancer named Glenn, who shared his experience with multiple myeloma. This is Glenn’s story, in his own words.
I peed the bed last night. Go ahead, laugh. Get it out of your system. I’m an adult; I can take it. That’s the second time in the past two years, since the diagnosis and onset of treatment. I’ve heard it said that we start out peeing the bed as infants and end up peeing the bed in our “declining years.” (Talk about euphemisms!). Well, It’s not because I’m seventy. It’s because of the damn disease— multiple myeloma (MM), a cancer of the blood plasma cells (that’ll save you having to Google it).
In good company
I’m in good company with this blood cancer: to name only two of many, Tom Brokaw (his lucky life was interrupted, too, but he’s still battling), and Peter Boyle (of Everybody Loves Raymond fame, who lost his battle). We’ll all lose the battle eventually unless we meet up with the proverbial bus first. There’s no cure. But it can be treated, which is what’s happening with Tom and me.
Peeing the bed
And that brings me back to peeing the bed. Maybe it was the celebratory Sombrero (Kahlua & cream) or the late hour that I went to bed. It was New Year’s Eve after all, and we were saying goodbye to 2020, that rat bastard of a year we managed to survive. But more likely it was the bone-strengthening drug that’s infused into my body every month. “Infused” is such a benign-sounding word, isn’t it? Almost poetic. I’m imagining George Carlin describing the difference between infused and injected, much as he described the difference between baseball and football (look it up on YouTube…it’s hilarious).
The infusion process may be no big deal, but the drug itself has nasty aftereffects. It helps make my bones less brittle; less likely to break. For that I am grateful. But the drug kicks my butt in one way or another, and this particular “another” was … peeing the bed. Humiliating. The first time it happened was shortly after the MM diagnosis, I was receiving treatment weekly, and we were living close to the cancer center in a rental apartment, and therefore, on a rental mattress—you wanna talk about humiliation?
Caregiver hall of fame
My wife … stoic, sensitive, supportive, without judgment (though a few well-deserved jokes get slung in my direction occasionally) … she should be inducted into the Caregiver Hall of Fame. Awakened in the middle of the night to help change the wet sheets, she was just glad we hadn’t had asparagus for dinner! She doesn’t deserve this. And yet she smiles and just carries on, in that perfect partner kind of way. Bless her heart.
Let’s back up a moment. Fall of 2018, I’m sitting on the couch and I just stand up, and *POP* goes something in my left ribcage. Hurts like hell and gets worse over the next few weeks. Hard to breathe, extremely hard getting in and out of bed, or doing anything that puts any pressure on my ribcage. We go to my PCP’s office; I’m worried that I pulled a muscle or cracked a rib, perhaps. The PA does an X-ray, it shows nothing, so he diagnoses it as a muscle strain and sends me home, certain that it will resolve itself over time.
A few months later, as we’re preparing for our first three-month RV snowbird trip to Florida, we decide that we’d better get a more thorough assessment of the problem because it still had not resolved. My PCP orders a CT-scan. We drive home after the scan and enter the house as my cell phone alerts me to a call from the doctor’s office.
“Can you please come into the office? The doctor would like to speak with you.”
“We just left there a half-hour ago. Can’t he just speak with me over the phone?”
“No. He specifically asked that you come in so he can speak with you in person.”
I had the call on speakerphone. I hang up. My wife and I look at each other and say simultaneously, “That can’t be good.”
A mass in my ribcage
We drive the half-hour back to the doctor’s office…I’m feeling like a condemned man headed to the gallows; my wife is apprehensive. We make small talk, but we both know what we’re thinking: What’s it going to be?
When we arrive, a nurse quickly ushers us into an examination room. (When does quickly anything ever happen in a doctor’s office?). The doc steps in carrying the CT-scan results.
“These kinds of discussions ruin my day,” he begins.
YOUR day, I’m thinking. Doesn’t seem like my day is about to get any better, either.
“I’ve never been able to figure out why bad things happen to good people,” he continues.
“I’m afraid we’ve found a mass in your ribcage, and I want to refer you to an oncologist for further analysis. I’m so sorry. I feel terrible.”
Not feeling particularly good myself.
Read Part 2 of Perspective.
Have you met another blood cancer patient?