10/28/13 Multiple Myeloma (MM)

You may be asking, “What is that?”

That is the blood cancer that ultimately claimed the life of former vice-presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro. She struggled with it for many years. It is a cancer of the blood’s plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) wherein the bone marrow produces defective plasma cells, produces too many of them which do not die off as normally programmed, and the infiltrated bone marrow devotes itself to their production as the expense of other blood cell types, mainly the red blood cells, which are the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. It is considered to be an incurable cancer, meaning that it is chronic, though a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant is an optional treatment that can lead to a cure, but it is a dangerous procedure, itself.

I mention this because I have a close friend just diagnosed with MM. He has gone with me on my CLL journey all the way, accompanying me to chemo treatments, encouraging me, praying for me, and just generally being there. Now, he has his own blood cancer to deal with.

Like CLL, MM is very treatable, depending on the particular genetics of the patient. One can live with it for a long time, or one can succumb to it, to a complication from it, or to the treatment for it. There is no easy choice here. Every turn is fraught with peril, much like life in general. Folks can live with MM for a long, long time, and many can live out the remainder of their natural lives with only the slightest inconveniences. That is my hope for my friend.

What is our natural life? What is its length? We have observable numbers that tell us what the averages and medians are, but we have no way of knowing where we will fall within those numbers. If the median life span is a certain number, then half are below it while the other half are above it. Will we be the ones to help increase the median number, or will be among those who skew it downward? No one knows that.

We only have now…this minute…this instant. There is no guarantee of the next moment. Well, the next moment is guaranteed, and so is our place in it, but our consciousness of it is not. Does this seem morose to you? If so, then why? It’s been this way since you were born.

Yet we are born with a blank slate: nothing behind us and everything in front. As we mature, we discover that there are far more things in our rear view mirror than in the view through the windshield. Maturity should teach us something about that. And it does, but it is a hard lesson, for it is always other people that get sick and die, or at least, so far, it has always been other people, so it is a shock when we come to the realization that it is our turn.

Hmmmmmm! I don’t really like the sound of that, and like everyone else, I will jump through hoops to postpone it, avoid it, and fight it tooth and nail. I can only hope to be successful for a while: maybe a long while, maybe a short while…but my own mortality looms before me, like an approaching stop sign, obscured through the fog, or obscured through an illusion I have created for myself. Funny thing though, it’s not that metaphorical stop sign that’s moving. It’s me. It’s us. It’s all of us.

We are all in this together. We humans share a common goal and a common destiny. It’s easy to talk about when the circumstances seem to surround others, but it is much harder when we have come to the realization that the circumstances have engulfed us. First there is denial, then anger, then acceptance. We must get through the first two to get to the last. And there is great peace comes with acceptance. We have always tried to change those things we could change, and we still strive for that. It is what we should do, because acceptance does not mean quitting. Acceptance means that we have learned to be here now.

If we could see our tomorrow, we certainly would take more time to be here now.

Sometimes we can’t even view the past clearly. Think about that for a while, if you will.

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