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The Faded Bracelet

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jimomel_app.jpgThis 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.


9 Comments

I know God will take Glen into his loving arms. It sounds like Glen did a lot of good in his life and now is the time he will be rewarded.
May God grant his family and friends peace and the knowledge to understand.

What a special man Glen was. He will be sadly missed.
:-(

I'm glad that his family is continuing to improve awareness about Multiple Myeloma. A member of our support group passed away last weekend. I read his obituary and was shocked that his family said he had died from cancer. No mention that he had Multiple Myeloma at all. I know that he would not have liked that at all.

We all need to do our part to increase awareness of this horrible cancer. My husband was diagnosed on Jan. 31, 2012. He has a very aggressive form of MM and so far has not responded to any treatments. We are still hoping for a miracle.

This blog came at a good time for me. I am a patient of 11 yrs, and a support group leader. We have just lost 2 of our founding members & close friends. Both Audrey & Herman battle & lived with MM for over 10 yrs. one passed at the age of 85 & the other 71, their ages did not make their deaths any easier. They were both young for their ages, an inspiration to all myeloma patients, and good myeloma messangers. What is so ugly about this cancer , myeloma, is that it takes our friends away to soon! The blessing or the silver lining, is that having myeloma brought these people into our lives & us into theirs, even if only for a short time. My wish for a cure is not only for myself but for all myeloma patients, so when this cancer introduces us to new friends we get to keep them longer. My heart is heavy as I say good by to my dear friends,
But I will not give up the fight and will continue to advocate the need of Myeloma support groups & awareness. Thanks Audrey & Herman for helping me start our myeloma support group, you both will be missed.

I too lost a dear friend to MM a couple of weeks ago. Roger fought courageously for 11 years, his family supporting him every step of the way. His service was the most spiritual, upbeat and beautiful service I have ever attended.As the preacher said, Roger was a soul man, and we laughed and cried during his 2 hour celebration.
My sister is about to celebrate her 5 year survival with a girls' trip to her favorite island in Maine. The day she was diagnosed, I stayed up all night reading and finally stumbled onto the IMF site. I immediately ordered bracelets for our family and to this day, my sister, my brother and myself wear them faithfully everday. I am on my third ( the 2 broken ones tucked into my jewelry box).My brother has the original and like Glen's it is worn thin and pale. The bracelets have indeed started conversations and I wear it proudly to celebrate the lives of those who live with MM and those that fight to end it. Thank you IMF.

Jim,
Tears welled in my eyes reading your tribute to your friend and fellow MM crusader Glenn.

I am sure Glenn's memory will be cherished by all whose lives he touched and enriched.

Glenn's burgundy bracelet - pink - tan - then white is a testimonial to his faithful support of improving the lives of MMers everywhere.

May your group find a comforting way to keep his spirit alive!

All the best,

Paula

I have worn my everyday from diagnosis 01/2004. Never take it off. It is a reminder for myself and countless others whom I think about everytime I look at it who have gone through this thing they call "MYELOMA".

As Glen's daughter I would like to thank Dr. Omel for writing this beautiful article. A beautiful tribute to an amazing man. I know there are a great deal of people suffering from Myeloma that will read this article, I hope it encourages you to live your life to the fullest. My dad never let his Myeloma stand in the way of living each day with a true passion for the moment. He was a comical man who not only enjoyed each day he made everyone around him enjoy each day. I miss him more than words could ever express. I have enjoyed reading your comments, may God Bless all of you and your families. My family will continue to advocate for this disease..."Imagine Moving Forward."

Thank-you for that touching article about Glen Potter. My diagnosis with this disease came two and one half years ago and it was devistating news. But thanks to the strength and support of other myeloma sufferers, I believe that I have come to terms with my illness and although I try to stay as positive as I can, I also am reminded of the devistation that befalls friends and family that must cope with the death of a loved one from this disease. We all need eachother's support in order to battle myeloma. It seems that Glen was very much aware of that and that makes me more determined to fight on for myself and others with this dread disease.

What a beautiful letter. I myself was diagnosed with MM 5 years ago at the age of 35. I have not yet been to any meeting so I dont really know anyone else with MM. I have never heard of the bracelets but would love to get one. God Bless you!

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