I am a 73-year-old survivor of WWII’s Battle of the Bulge, and a retired Administrator of Federal Grants for the State of Florida, used to being in charge of my life. When I retired in 1991, my wife and I envisioned an active life of community service and travel. However, in January of 1995 increasing back pain became a problem. By October my condition had deteriorated and an MRI was recommended. The results indicated a need for a full range of x-rays, bone scan, and bone marrow biopsy. In error, the radiologist diagnosed osteoporosis and did not do the biopsy. I was happy to hear my problem was osteo instead of the big "C". My denial began.
In March, against my wishes and through the efforts of my loving wife and family physician, I was finally correctly diagnosed . My first visit to an oncologist was exhausting and confusing. The brief encounter revealed that I probably had myeloma, a disease that wasn’t curable, but treatable. The oncologist said, "If lucky, you probably have another 10-15 years". This led me to believe that whatever I had could be handled with medication. However, the underpinnings of my carefully crafted denial collapsed when we received notification to return the following month to the "Cancer Unit" for a biopsy. The results confirmed MM. This shocked me into reality. My mind swirled with questions about how this disease would impact my life and that of my family. What kind of treatments would I have to undergo? Would I lose my hair? Would the medications make me even sicker?
Between January and March of 1996 the pain rapidly increased accompanied by other symptoms: loss of appetite (a loss of 40 pounds in 3 months), nausea, and constipation. Clarity of mind gave way to incomplete thoughts and sentences. My wife, Pat, became increasingly distressed as all of her efforts to provide favorite foods were met with disinterest. It became obvious to her that recovery was not possible without my cooperation. One evening she confronted me, albeit tenderly, by asking me a direct question, "Do you want to go on living? Do the children and I mean enough to you to make you want to live? Or do you want to continue this downward slide? I will honor your choice." Pat’s impassioned plea for me to choose life brought me up short even in a fuzzy minded state. My denial had been so complete I had allowed myself to drift slowly toward physical destruction.
Pat began the crucial process of learning as much as possible about MM, researching medical texts at the library, surfing the Internet, and joining the IMF. Through a chance conversation with her sister, and with additional help from our daughter Elizabeth, she began to explore alternative methods of approaching this disease through herbs, vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements. Through this research, Pat discovered a book, "Beating Cancer with Nutrition" by Dr. Patrick Quillin. It became our nutritional bible. Information gleaned there provided a nutritional drink I was able to consume, leading to weight recovery.
As chemotherapy and a nutritional program progressed, the cobwebs of my mind began to disappear. I needed to draft a plan to turn the tide in the fight to conquer this disease. Fortunately, setting goals had always been my forte. Pat and I identified the five tools to achieve our objective of overcoming MM: prayer, positive attitude, medical treatment, nutrition, and physical therapy.
She posted this list on the bathroom mirror. I thought this was a hopeful beginning but she quickly reminded me success would require being confident: I must tell myself unequivocally I intended to get well! Pat repeatedly reminded me of God’s never-ending healing grace expressed through prayer which consists of talking and listening to God and seeking God’s healing grace in mind, body and spirit. Our prayer partners, church family and friends throughout the country prayed for me on a regular basis. A special "soaking prayer" team from our church came to our home weekly for months to conduct extended prayer sessions.
Nutrition has helped me to improve my immune system so my body can better fight the disease. It also complements, and in some cases enhances, the effects of chemo. The "Dragon Slayer" drink into which we add nutritional supplements has made pill-taking much easier.
We found a physical therapy center with a pool. The first visit I came in a wheelchair and was lowered by hydraulic lift into the water, but soon I was waltzing in on my own! Now I work out 20-30 minutes 6 days a week (3 in the pool, 3 in the weight room.)
My true love is radio, having been in media for over 50 years, the last 17 with National Public Radio. Even at my lowest period I was somehow able to make it to the station for my weekly recording session. We have worked very hard to maintain our lifestyle. We continue to travel for months at a time each summer. I sing in the church choir, have an active ministry by mail, phone and visiting shut-ins. It is crucial for me to reach out to others, remain involved with them, and not dwell on my problem. In other words, stay positive! I can always find someone more in need than myself. If I am to succeed I must choose life!
The key to my survival has been to take charge of my odyssey. By God’s healing grace I am alive and thank Him for each day. Since being diagnosed I have become a hope addict determined to never give up. Waging the battle and bringing MM under control is an overwhelming experience. Pat has become my leveler, instilling in me a powerful maxim: choose life! By reaching out to others in need, I have helped myself, often when least expected, by trying to be a blessing to someone each day. Life is not measured by how long one lives, rather how one lives! One doesn’t battle cancer alone. It affects family and friends. It is important to allow them to join the battle. Fighting cancer cannot be measured in overnight cures or instant results. It is a game of inches… one inch at a time.
Since October of ’98, after having taken chemo monthly for two and a half years, I have been in remission. I am a survivor. You can be one too! In closing, I would like to share with you a note I saw posted in my doctor’s office:
Cancer is limited.
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the spirit.
It cannot lesson the power of the resurrection.
It can be overcome.