On March 18, 2021, I received a medical diagnosis that changed my life completely. I remember it like it was yesterday; the doctor came into my hospital room and informed me that I had Multiple Myeloma. Stage 3. That’s the final stage—you’re really close to the gates of heaven at that stage.
Let me give you the backstory: In early March, 2021, my primary care doctor’s office called me because my annual blood work was overdue. Covid-19 had hit the year before, and I just didn’t have the opportunity to get my labs done. So I completed the blood work. Then on March 16, I received a call from a covering physician (this is important to the story) who stated my lab work was off, and it was causing him some concern. He wanted me to see an oncologist and a nephrologist. The oncologist could better interpret my labs, and the kidney specialist could determine if my kidneys were failing, a symptom of Multiple Myeloma.
Initially I was going to choose my own oncologist, but the primary care doctor had already referred my case to someone in-house. On March 17, the oncologist called. I was driving to a chiropractic appointment at the time because I was experiencing severe lower back pain—which happens to be another symptom of Multiple Myeloma. The oncologist told me he wanted me admitted to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the local cancer hospital, right away. The admissions office admitted me that same day.
Once I was admitted, additional lab work was done. I’m telling you, it felt like they drew a liter of blood from me. I was trying my hardest not to worry. (My zodiac sign is Cancer; one thing about Cancers, we are very emotional, and we tend to let our emotions dictate decisions.) On March 18, the initial diagnosis was Leukemia—very similar to Multiple Myeloma, but after further testing that same day, it was determined that I had stage-3 Multiple Myeloma.
My father had died at the young age of 42 from colon cancer, so starting at the age of 27, I had a colonoscopy every three years. Eventually, I was advised to have them done every five years. It’s crazy to think that the cancer I was actually at high risk of getting is not the cancer I got. Multiple Myeloma is usually diagnosed in men ages 60 or older. At the time of my diagnosis, I was a 50-year-old Black woman.
My family and friends have asked me about any prior symptoms and if I felt sick. I answered honestly, of course I had symptoms.But you don’t immediately associate your ailments with cancer; I naturally associated the symptoms with other things. I experienced nose bleeds, but I thought I was too hot. I experienced shortness of breath but assumed I just needed to lose some weight. I experienced muscle pain, but I thought my mattress was the culprit. Yes, there were other symptoms too, but I ignored them. It appears I had this disease for many years, and my own primary-care nurse practitioner didn’t recognize the danger signs in my previous labs—even though, as I looked over my lab history, there were many.
My regular primary-care nurse practitioner was on vacation when a covering doctor reviewed my labs. It was the covering doctor who recognized that something wasn’t right. I don’t know if he knew or suspected cancer, or if he just wanted me to see an oncologist and a kidney doctor. Either way, he was right. I went back to the office a few weeks later to thank him in person, to tell him that he saved my life; I wanted to let him know that he’s my angel.
The office clerks told me that either I was saying his name wrong or that that doctor didn’t work there. Regrettably, when he’d introduced himself, his West Indian accent was thick, and I only caught some of his name. I tried to argue my case that he had referred me to a specialist, but the office clerks were too busy to help investigate the matter further, so I gave up.
As of today, my cancer is in remission. I currently take Revlimid, an oral chemotherapy drug that has aided in my cancer remaining in remission. I am hopeful that with my current treatment I can survive this disease and make it past the 5-year mark (relapses happen prior to the 5-year mark).
To my angel in the white coat, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to see the birth of my first grandchild. Thank you for allowing me to see a few more turns around the sun. May God continue to bless you and me.Leave a Comment