This is a story sprinkled with equal parts of sadness,
admiration, and inspiration about a rugged Nebraska farmer and his courageous approach
to myeloma. Glen Potter was no stranger to myeloma when he
was diagnosed in 1999. His father had
died with it. His response to the
shocking diagnosis was, "Well, how do we fight it. What do we do first?" He had an auto transplant in 2000 and was
more or less on continuous treatment for the rest of his life, rarely
mentioning his painful Thalidomide neuropathy, chronic fatigue, or innumerable
long trips to Arkansas.
Glen was a member of my Central NE Myeloma Support Group for
10 years and rarely missed a monthly meeting. He wore his burgundy IMF bracelet continuously and was a constant
spokesman for more myeloma research and better public understanding of this
horrible cancer. No one will ever know
how many countless conversations were started by that burgundy bracelet. As he cared for his cattle and grew his crops
the sun eventually faded the constant companion on his wrist from burgundy to
pink to tan to off-white. It was as
much a part of him as his white Stetson hat. It is impossible to tell you what a truly nice man he was...unbelievably
optimistic, supportive, and a friend to everyone he ever met.
Our group was planning our annual summer evening picnic and
it was to be on Glen's 65th
birthday. I planned to have a special cake from a local
grocery and nearly 40 voices would sing "Happy Birthday" that night. Food plans were made, tables and chairs
secured, and our speaker from Omaha was anxious to attend. A few days before the party Glen was playing
with his grandchildren. His family reports
that he felt well, but in an amazingly short time he began to feel sick. High fever forced him to the ER where he was admitted. Despite IV fluids and supportive care he
rapidly deteriorated and within hours was put on life support technology. Cardiac irregularities and renal failure
quickly followed, most likely all caused by overwhelming sepsis. Despite
the best of care, Glen died.
Our group was devastated. Glen's funeral was scheduled for Saturday, the day of his 65th
birthday and the day of our summer evening party which we obviously
cancelled. The day before his funeral
his daughter Shelly called to ask me if I had any more of the burgundy IMF
bracelets which I had given to her father, the one faded nearly white with age
and exposure. She explained that Glen
would be buried with that faded bracelet still on his wrist, and she wanted to
hand out new burgundy bracelets to all the close family members. The Potter family hates myeloma as much as
anyone possibly could, and they plan to continue spreading the word about
multiple myeloma. Their new burgundy bracelets
will start many conversations. Glen's
commitment to fight this disease and find a cure will continue long after his
death. At his funeral the church was
full and overflowing with people. In
several eulogies myeloma and Glen's battle with it were mentioned. Myeloma. Not cancer.....myeloma! Too often
when people with our disease die, cancer is listed as the cause when it is "myeloma"
which needs to be emphasized for better public awareness.
Glen Potter lived and died with myeloma for 13 years, but he
never gave it a chance to rule his life. By his IMF bracelet, and the bracelets his family will still wear, he
will continue to silently advocate against our awful disease.