A little about me:
I am a partner in a consulting company, domestic and international work. I’m an active person; I like to hike, kayak, and I run or bike daily. I’m currently training for a summer short course triathlon.
I travel frequently for work and for leisure. I enjoy listening to classical music attending art galleries. Pre-consulting, I enjoyed several interesting photo contracts. I still do a lot of photography.
My experience with blood cancer:
I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in late 2013. Ironically, symptoms first manifested when I was out for a run. This is the first major illness that I have experienced. I was diagnosed very early; within two days of initial pain I was referred to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) for an MRI.
My treatment comprised a stem cell transplant, velcade, dexamethasone, and pamidronate. After two years, I was in remission. Two years ago, I had a slight increase in blood numbers and elected, with my oncologist, to go on Revlamid, dexamethasone and zoledronic acid.
I learned that it is important to know your body, seek medical attention when a health matter appears to arise, be willing to talk about (physical and mental) health and illness and effects of meds. Take an interest in your own symptoms and treatments.
Due to conditioning and societal expectations, men are often unwilling to talk about health issues.
Support during my experience with blood cancer:
I received exceptional support from oncology and hematology specialists and the Medical Day Care Unit at VGH.
My daughters were exceptional. They moved in with me for my post-transplant month of ‘special care’, they cooked and cared for me. They did net research on diagnosis and treatments and, very selectively, gave me relevant information.
The illness and the level of care has brought my daughters and me much closer. Since diagnosis, I have understood the value of life and loving. I see in a different light the absurdities of conventions that we have grown to consider essential and developed the ability to examine and dispense with pointless ideals. Also, to trust in the sincere caring from family, friends, medical staff, and support networks.
The LLSC peer support program:
Your peer support contact possesses no special skills or abilities. However, they have been through the same diagnosis and treatment experiences that you are moving through. They also felt the shock of initial diagnosis, the trauma of discussing this with family and friends, dealt with the uncertainty of practical considerations such as work or family care, passed through treatments which cause a variety of discomforts, experienced treatments which may have failed or felt the joy of seeing blood numbers with ‘no discernable trace’; along with the joy of an end to treatments tinged with the fear of a relapse.
The LLSC peer support program allows me to provide support and empathy to others. I have learned to have a richer perspective on life and people. We are all multi-dimensional. We all have our joys and agonies. We have a variety of methods to cope with our challenges. A blood cancer presents, perhaps, more severe challenges than many. However, with understanding and caring we can be supportive of others as they move through physical and emotional stresses that they have, likely, not previously experienced.
The experience of a blood cancer and participation in treatment is not a direction we would choose in life. However, once we have it, we can learn more about ourselves and others. It allows us the luxury to strip away the unnecessary and focus upon the essential. We all have our ecstasies and agonies. If we can allow others entry to show how we respond to a blood cancer, they may be able to capitalize upon that experience and to be ushered through their experience of a blood cancer. The peer support program has allowed me to accept others with their idiosyncrasies and to respect their uniqueness as they pass through the blood cancer journey and to use my experience, my caring and empathy to ease their path.
I maintain eternal optimism. I know that the specialists with whom I have contact are highly skilled and doing their best on my behalf. I know that I am caring for my health as best I can. I know that I have a strong and caring support group. The combination of these three permits me to enjoy my work, my family, the sound of the sea, the sight of the mountains, to really hear good music, truly look at a piece of art. Acknowledge that you have a blood cancer but avoid being drawn into the vortex of the illness. It can be a dark and unproductive place. Learn to focus on all that is marvelous in life.