Chapter 11 Why Me?

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
– Oscar Wilde

There comes a point in any cancer diagnosis where you ask Why Me? or How did I get cancer?

With Myeloma, the answer to me was “We don’t know why you got it”.

Now there are theories and risk factors cited as to why a person gets myeloma.

This is an answer from Patient.co.uk to the question “What causes Myeloma?”

It is not known why a plasma cell becomes cancerous. Factors such as infection, or chemicals, or other environmental factors may play a part in damaging cells and causing cancers such as myeloma. However, no factor has been proven as a cause for myeloma. It is not a hereditary disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic factors that may increase your risk of multiple myeloma include:

Increasing age. Your risk of multiple myeloma increases as you age, with most people diagnosed in their mid-60s.

Male sex. Men are more likely to develop the disease than women.

Black race. Black people are about twice as likely to develop multiple myeloma as are whites.

History of a monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS). Every year 1 percent of the people with MGUS in the United States develop multiple myeloma.

I was 38, female, white and had no history of MGUS.

I could easily drive myself crazy wondering WHY ME? but I knew I needed all my energies directed at beating this disease. In fact disease is too good a word for cancer – I knew I needed to kick its ass!

Before my diagnosis I had been well. I was a busy working Mum with young kids so I was tired at the end of an average day but not fatigued.

In the run up to the first day I felt really sick in December 2006, I did have a lot of colds and sore throats. In fact on 8 December – the day I started feeling very unwell – Bishop Larry Forristal called me to say he was worried about me. He had seen me the day before in work and it had been a few months since he had last seen me so he had noticed something wasn’t right with me. He asked me to look after myself and to take care. About an hour after that phone call I started vomiting and feeling very unwell.

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There had also been a strange set of symptoms which appeared out of the blue the day after my grandmother’s funeral in May 2006. I woke up and I was having trouble with my leg and my hip. I was in pain and was having difficulty lifting my leg. I was using my gran’s walking stick all of that day. I thought it was muscle strain. In the early hours of the following morning the pain was so bad that I had to go to accident and emergency. They diagnosed deep muscle strain and sent me home with some meds.

I didn’t get much better so I went to my own doctor a few days later and she was worried enough to send me for tests as an inpatient in hospital. They suspected MS. I had blood tests which showed nothing unusual and had a series of MRIs which were all normal. The doctors were baffled. They were not thinking about Myeloma because most doctors are not thinking myeloma when they are presented with a healthy young woman. Thankfully it wasn’t MS either. After a few days of rest the pain disappeared and I was deemed fit enough to go back to my life. I am convinced now in hindsight that this was the beginning of my symptoms but because the docs weren’t looking for Myeloma, they didn’t find it.

I was aware in the months after that of weight loss but what woman doesn’t smile when her clothes feel looser or when she drops a size? I didn’t think anything of it.

Back to December 2006 and the weekend after I started vomiting and feeling awful, my in laws came to stay. I came home from work and my father in law – who would never pass any remarks about me or my weight or looks – gave me a hug and blurted out “Brenda you have lost loads of weight”. I knew he was immediately regretful about saying that to me but I think he was shocked by what he saw in me. It was a gradual decline in health which those living with me didn’t notice and which I didn’t really notice myself either. But those who hadn’t seen me for weeks/months noticed something amiss as soon as they saw me.

I still don’t have the answers to why me? or How?

I never smoked. I drank in moderation. I led a sensible enough life. I don’t think I was exposed to more chemicals than the next person.

Once the first bout of vomiting started on 8 December 2006, I went downhill rapidly from there. I wasn’t eating. I was trying to keep everything going but it all came to a head on Christmas Day 2006 when I threw up after dinner. It was all slippage downhill after that and I knew in my heart of hearts it was something bad.

I never realised just how bad it was or that it would lead to a stem cell transplant … Sure who would think that?

But this was it. Fast forward to July 2007 and I was just days from admission to hospital for what would be the biggest battle of my life. I had no idea if I had the strength to get through it …. I hoped and prayed that I did.

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