1971 / Class of 2000 / Type: IgG / Stem-cell transplant / Last update: 3/02
I am 29 years old, one of the few on this site of this age. I was raised in a
small southern town in rural Georgia and I have not been exposed to radiation or
pesticides. In my younger years I Had the normal childhood illnesses, but
nothing significant. I have 3 small children and my pregnancies were hard. When
I was 21 my PCP diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease. Over the years that
hasn't changed my life any, so I had put it out of my mind.
In the last months of 1999, I developed pain in my ribs. My PCP tested me for
kidney infections. While checking some routine lab work he discovered that my
total protein was elevated. He also explained to me that elevated protein levels
also could be attributed to a cancer known as Multiple Myeloma. He went further
to tell me that I should not be concerned because this cancer (which I had never
heard of) was usually seen in people 50 to 70 years old and it did not affect
people my age. He performed other tests and my IgG level was found to be 5770.
He sent me to a Hem-Onc for a BMB. While waiting for my results, I had flu-like
symptoms and tremendous back pain. I work in an emergency room and that weekend
I became a patient.
Lab work determined that I had bacterial pneumonia and X-Ray showed a
fracture in the middle of my back. My BMB showed the horrible truth that I
indeed had MM. I had 5% plasma cells in my bone marrow. The crying began along
with trying to find out what this terrible disease was. I immediately began
treatment using VAD and Decadron with Aredia every 3 weeks. I had 5 ports
installed into my superior vena cava and all either had no blood return by the
end of 2 weeks or became infected. The Aredia gave me a high fever and flu-like
symptoms after every dose. The Decadron made me crash so bad after the last dose
of the cycle. The chemo made me so fatigued and nauseated. I also had hair loss.
Before the PSCT I had a Hickman port put in. After 3 days it became infected
with a staph infection. I had it removed and a femoral line was put in to
collect my stem cells.
In Oct, 2000 I had my transplant at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
I had to take a leave of absence from my job because of the exposure to infected
people and germs. I am now trying to get over this emotionally and physically
draining experience. My doctor is reluctant to tell me if all of this torture
has done anything, because my protein level is still elevated and my IgG level
is at 2750. Either way, my main goal right now is to create a lot of memories
for my children and put my life in God's hands. If anyone out there is a young
survivor of this disease and have some suggestion for me, I would love all of
the advice I can get.
March, 2002: It has been a while! I guess the good thing is I am still
out there to let you know how I am! Not a lot has changed, I am holding my own.
Right now I am not doing anything except monitoring things once a month with my
oncologist. My IgG level is about 3000. I am living as normal a life as
possible. The fear is always there of a recurrence. Thanks to all who have
written and shared with me their experience. Today is the anniversary of my
diagnosis - 2 YEARS. I am 30 now and wiser to this disease. There is one
important thing for all to remember: HOPE... there is always hope.