Late last year I met a 19-year multiple myeloma survivor at the American
Society of Hematology (ASH) meetings in San Diego.
She was an elderly African-American woman who seemed to be in surprisingly good health.
As I often do when I meet any long-time survivor, I asked her what her secret was for living so long. She thought a moment and said, "Therapy is like riding a horse."
"A horse?" I asked.
a horse," she repeated a bit mysteriously. "You should ride that horse until it
drops--then wait for it to get up, and ride it again!"
As we talked some more, I began to understand her point. Patients should use a therapy for as long as they can, then go back to it and try it again and again until their doctor is sure that they have gotten every possible day--or mile--out of the drug or drugs that they've been using.
She explained that there are only so many myeloma drugs available to use at any one time. She felt that getting the most out of each of them had added years to her life. "And I've been lucky!" she said. "Just when I thought that I was running out of time, another drug came along to help me live a while longer."
My conversation with this wise and elegant survivor changed the way I think about myeloma therapy.
So many of us can be in a hurry to change horses midstream, abandoning a therapy that might not be working as well now as it did before. But that can be a mistake.
Even if your numbers aren't going down anymore--maybe they're stable, or even rising slowly--squeezing every precious day out of your therapy can add up to a lot of extra living in the end.
Who knows? A few extra months here and there might make the difference between becoming a statistic or living to fight another day! Wise advice, indeed!
Feel good and keep smiling!