I’ve procrastinated long enough. Time to start writing some things down.
Angela, my wife of 26 years, has been diagnosed with a blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma, or MM. It attacks the bone marrow, which is where blood cells are made. The bone marrow makes the red and white blood cells as well as plasma cells. Think of plasma cells as something like “filler” cells. MM causes the bone marrow to produce plasma cells in instead of red blood cells. The disease does other damage too, including clogging the kidneys so they eventually fail. That also happened, and is how we found out that Angela was sick.
That was six months ago. So much has happened since then. My BFF has changed a lot physically and in other ways: spiritually, mostly. We don’t argue the same way anymore. She gives in quickly when she’s wrong, stands strong when she’s right. I’ve changed too. I don’t care about my career anymore… at least not for the same reasons. It’s no longer complicated: serve God, he’ll take care of the rest. I used to grumble when people said things like that.
When Angela was diagnosed, her doctor, an MM specialist at the University of Michigan, said she had never seen a case quite like Angela’s. There’s a number we keep track of to know how her treatment is going. It’s called kappa free light chains. It’s a complex ratio of something in the human blood. We just call it The Number, and it’s supposed to be about 1. Hers, at the time of diagnosis, was around 2,500. The doctor said that UofM didn’t have equipment that could measure that high. That was hard.
When we last checked, The Number was 188. That’s up from 177 about a month ago. It is expected to bounce around a bit until it’s time for phase two of Angela’s treatment.
Some people ask the question, “What’s the prognosis?” It’s an interesting question to ask a cancer patient. If other cancer patients are like Angela and me, the question we hear is “so, when are you going to die?” Usually people who haven’t seen us in a long time are the ones who ask it. Our closest friends and family don’t. We appreciate that. By the way, the doctors don’t like the question either, and usually won’t answer. They say things like, “treatments are getting better all the time, so it’s hard to know.” and “Everyone is different. Let’s concentrate on getting to remission.” We had one doctor just give it to us straight. He told us while Angela was first in the hospital while we had been waiting a few days for the news. He sort of burst into the room and smiled and said, “Well, you have cancer!” I kid you not, it was like he was saying, “Congratulations! Our diagnosis was right! You DO have cancer!” After that he told us everything we needed to know about the prognosis:chances of survival, how often there are life-extending advances, and how race, gender, and kidney-failure will affect the outcomes. He seemed to be tripping all over himself to tell us everything. I fired him on the spot. He was the last doctor to be so honest.
We now do dialysis three time per week, 4 hours each time. Yes, that’s a lot, and it’s as much as the dialysis center can handle. So many people need dialysis that they need the space. We’re going to switch to home dialysis in a few months.
Since this is the first post about Angela, I’ll stop here and write in more detail in other posts.