This post is for my real life friends who I wish to ‘come out’ to as opposed to regular myeloma blog followers. Since my diagnosis, I’ve ‘come out’ on numerous occasions and it is really really, really emotionally challenging to do … hence the communal message.
First of all, my cancer is not public knowledge. My concern is to protect my children from knowing and give them a normal childhood for as long as possible. So, please honor this and do not share this further (especially if you ever have the pleasure of meeting my children).
So, how can it possibly be that my children do not know that their mum has cancer? Well, it is complicated! Basically, I have been living with cancer since 2014 and have not had any treatment yet since the cancer is not causing any damage.
I have asymptomatic multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer (which is weird since pretty much no-one has ever heard of it!) It is also incurable and most people die from it within 5 years (I saved you a trip to Mr. google).
Basically, my cancer was caught early (which is a very good thing in other cancers). But unlike Angelina Jolie, who had the option of a mastectomy and removing her ovaries to prevent it developing, there is nothing to prevent myeloma developing to a stage that does need treatment. You cant chop your blood off.
My ‘treatment’ is called ‘watch and wait’ (better known as ‘watch and worry’) which means regular checkups and tests to keep an eye on things to make sure nothing gets out of hand without noticing.
Myeloma, while incurable, is treatable with drugs. So why am I not being given the drugs that symptomatic myeloma patients get?! I totally understand why people cannot comprehend that you can be diagnosed with an incurable cancer for which there are drugs and they don’t give them to you! I often question this reality myself!
My explanation is that the drugs available aren’t great and don’t work for very long or provide a cure, so they prefer to save them for when you really need them – for when you become symptomatic and the cancer is doing damage in your body (bones breaking, kidney failure etc).
They have tried the drugs on other people with asymptomatic myeloma (more commonly known as smoldering multiple myeloma or SMM) and they do not provide a survival benefit, so why take drugs that have numerous side effects if they do not help?
So, why am I even sharing this? Well, there are a few reasons – one if which is raising awareness. A significant number of myeloma patients die soon after diagnosis since they were diagnosed too late – the typical symptom of backache is so common that myeloma is not on the doctor’s radar, plus it is so rare that doctors wont even consider it from just a backache. However, while I’m all for raising awareness, I think the chances of me doing something that will help another person discover they have myeloma is negligible, so I’m not doing this solely for awareness.
The main reason I am sharing is because there is so much dishonesty involved in keeping this ‘secret’. I’ve reconnected with old school and university friends via social media and if I do not share this secret then any in-depth conversation about ‘what have you been up to for the past X years?’ is very false and I tend to avoid social interactions.
I’ve lost count of the number of seemingly insignificant comments from people that are so significant to me. Literally, I have had a few uncomfortable situations similar to the following: I went to an oncologist at the hospital and bumped into a friend (who knows my kids and therefore isn’t someone I wish to share with) who works in the hospital. She asked what I was doing there…. “I’m going to visit someone in hematology.” She pulled a sad face and said something to the effect of “hematology? That’s really not a good place to be!” ‘Yes, thanks for that,’ I wanted to scream!!!
Since my diagnosis, I’ve seen 2 similar aged Facebook friends posting about their partners being diagnosed with cancer. Having ‘been there done that’, I know that it makes a world of difference to get input from people who truly understand what you are going through. So, if this ever were to be relevant to you then keep me in mind when looking for emotional/practical support.
Also, I have been taking medical cannabis for a couple of years, and am happy to share my experience since cannabis seems to be all the rage today.
That’s all for now.