Saturday, April 4, 2009

You have cancer

June 1st 2001.
My GP said “Sid, you have multiple myeloma. It’s a cancer of the blood. YOU HAVE CANCER.”
My world stood still, I was in shock, speechless, becoming emotional. It was that C word: cancer.
I went into denial. It can’t be, anything but cancer. The results are not mine, there must be a mix up, they must be some one else’s. I’m too busy to have cancer, too much work. I’ve no time to be sick, I work for Beca. I thought I was bullet proof.
He said it again “You have cancer, multiple myeloma.”
Tears flowed and I slowly realised the truth. The good news was there was finally a diagnose of my medical condition, it had a name multiple myeloma. The bad news was it was cancer.
Action was spontaneous. My pain relief was upgraded to morphine, contact was made with Auckland hospital haematology and an appointment made for the following week. An assessment by the hospital needs assessor was arranged.
Back home I began the task of phoning people to give them the news. When I phoned work my Boss was unavailable so I passed the news onto my good colleague Ross. That is I tried to. The tears flowed again. Eventually Ross got the message. During a crisis there are some compassionate and understanding people about and Ross is one of those.
There was only one difficult one, my mother 84 at the time. Normally I do a difficult task first then all else seems easy. This time I couldn’t so left it to last.
“Hi Mum” I said, “I have some news about my health. I have c…….”. Couldn’t finish, couldn’t say the C word, I was crying uncontrollably. Myra finished the call for me.
That night Myra and I read our big blue medicine book “The New Zealand Home Guide to Health and Medicine” published 1991.
The last paragraph of the multiple myeloma section read: “There is no cure to multiple myeloma and treatment is aimed to reduce the symptoms and prolong life. Potent cytotoxic drugs and radiotherapy are the most common forms of treatment used. Patients survive for one to four years after diagnose, depending upon their age, the aggressiveness of the cancer and their general health.”
That’s marvellous, a cancer with no cure, short survival, all doom and gloom.
Later I would learn talk to the medical professionals and only use up to date information.

Cancer: Disease due to the uncontrolled growth, accumulation, division and maturation of cells. (Maturation: the process of becoming mature)
Cytotoxic drugs: Anti-cancer drugs that act by killing or preventing the division of cells.
Haematology: The study of diseases of the blood and bone marrow.
Multiple myeloma: A cancer caused by uncontrolled growth or proliferation of plasma cells which make antibodies in the bone marrow.
Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy, high-energy rays used to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing and dividing.


Anonymous said...

For most people there's no cure for multiple myeloma. But an allogeneic stem cell transplant can produce a complete cure.
This normally requires stem cells donated from a brother or sister, and there's a one in four chance they'll provide an adequate match.
However, there's also the risk of host vs graft disease, which can be fatal, so it's a difficult one to call.
Mike Sharp

Sid said...

Thanks Mike,
I have 2 brothers and 3 sisters. Of those a sister was a partial match (about 80%).
In 2001 it was explained to me that there was a 20% risk of death with an allogenic stem cell transplant, the older one is the higher the risk. Main risk being as you said host vs graft disease.
I considered the risk too great especially with the match being not 100%