Giving Thanks

The first holiday season after my stem cell transplant offered me many reasons to be thankful, and many people to share my gratitude with.

We are in the holiday season and I recently enjoyed our annual prompt to be thankful for all the joys in our life. As a multiple myeloma patient, it’s a good reminder for me to appreciate all the people that help me fight this disease.

I discovered with my diagnosis that it’s easy to become self-centered. What is happening to my body? What treatments do I need? When are my ap­point­ments? How does my health impact my schedule and obligations? For the most part, I think this is understandable, natural, and unavoidable. Even before multiple myeloma entered my life, I sometimes forgot to con­sider how my words and deeds affected others, and sometimes I forgot the simple act of saying “Thank you.” Now that I owe so many so much, I hope I can correct this oversight.

I’ve described how shocking my multiple myeloma diagnosis was to me. I honestly don’t know how my wife, family, and close friends felt when they heard the news. Did I ever really consider their feelings as I proc­essed my own? How difficult was it for them to keep their emotions in check for fear of upsetting me?  I don’t think I completely considered how hard it was for them when anxiety and depression overwhelmed me and disconnected me from my work and my family. I know I wasn’t always there for them to be the husband, father, and colleague that I should have been.

Almost immediately after my diagnosis, many of my responsibilities shifted to my wife and family. Because I couldn’t lift anything and I had to avoid exposure to everything that might cause an infection, I could no longer perform so many chores that were once ordinary. One by one, my family had to pick up my slack. Individually the tasks were minor, but cumulatively, our lives changed. The restrictions only grew over time.

Before and after my autologous stem cell transplant, the work load for my wife grew exponentially. She cleaned every inch of our living space, washed linens, and sanitized our bathroom and kitchen daily. She quickly learned nursing skills, flushing my central line, changing my dressings, and offering me a cold cloth when the drugs and my gastrointestinal system didn’t see eye-to-eye. Above all else, she was there for me always. I know this wasn’t an easy task.

I often felt guilty not helping more, and I tried to do what I could to chip in, but I fear it was too little to show how much I appreciated what was being done for me.

To my wife and children, I say “Thank you” for your hard work, support, and boundless love.

I have a great relationship with my brothers. It is marked by endless joking and laughter. When I told them I had multiple myeloma, they offered me strength and humor, sometimes dark, and it was always welcome. My brother and sister-in-law opened their home to me for a peaceful respite during my recovery from my trans­plant. My siblings are always reminding me I’m loved and part of a great family.

To my brothers, I say “Thank you” for a lifetime of smiles through thick and thin.

When I told work colleagues that I was ill, and that I would miss all of the summer, they understood. They stepped up and made sure that my work, and the people I serve, would not be left in the lurch. Many of them took on extra responsibility to cover for me, often sacrificing their own time or compensation to make sure I could give my full concentration to my recovery.

To my colleagues, I say “Thank you” for giving of yourselves so freely to continue our work.

I’m lucky to live near one of the nation’s leading cancer treatment centers. I have a better chance of beating this horrible disease because I have a gifted medical team working for me. They clearly possess great knowl­edge and experience that will help me. They also have great compassion, understanding the difficulty my family and I face fighting this cancer. During my visits, after we’ve discussed lab results and treatment op­tions, we talk about life. We chat about what we are doing at home, what makes us happy, and the ques­tions we have about the future. We joke, we laugh, and we remember there is life outside the clinic walls.

To my medical team, I say “Thank you” for treating all of my conditions, physical and mental, and re­mem­ber­ing the humanity of your patients.

The Internet is remarkable. We literally have access to all knowledge of mankind at our fingertips. Of course, that isn’t always good, because a great deal of the information is inaccurate, hurtful, and wrong. I had never heard of multiple myeloma before my diagnosis, and turning to the Internet for answers was often more harm­ful than helpful. Then I discovered The Myeloma Beacon. Here I found accurate information about what was happening to me, the science of the disease, what treatments were available, and a realistic reason to be hopeful about my future. In the Beacon’s forums I found caring, polite, and informed participants whose only interest was to help fellow patients, caregivers, and family.

To the editors of The Myeloma Beacon, my fellow columnists, and the many participants in the Beacon’s forums, I say “Thank you” for providing hope and support to this community.

I will never be thankful this wicked disease invaded my body, but I am grateful to be reminded of the many compassionate, strong, and loving people in my life.

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Photo Credit: © 2014 Mark Pouley.

I love the Thanksgiving holiday and I love the fall. This month’s photo is from my wife’s and my favorite lake. The photo was taken in the fall as the green turns wonderful shades of red and yellow.

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