On Thursday, October 23, 2014 my life changed…and I didn’t even know it. The previous Sunday afternoon, my husband and three kids dropped me off in the ER with a swollen eye. The ER doctors decided to admit me, which seemed crazy at the time…and what followed later was even crazier.
So, how can anyone describe the day that changes their life forever? Let me start at the beginning… I went into the hospital with cellulitis in my eye, basically an eye infection. Looked pretty bad (though the gigantic Tory Burch sunglasses I had been sporting did help to disguise…. ) but despite antibiotic drops, the swelling wasn’t going DOWN, it was getting WORSE. So, we penciled in a trip to the ER between two kids’ soccer games with my husband dropping me off and saying he’d pick me up after the games. Little could we have predicted the eight days that followed but thank God for the wonderful team of doctors and nurses who pieced together a really low iron count and the excruciatingly HIGH (and rapidly climbing) calcium levels in my blood. Three days after checking in for a bum eye, I suddenly had pneumonia, was on dialysis (twice), under sedation for several days and ultimately diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, (which is essentially is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells help you fight infections by making antibodies that recognize and attack germs. Multiple myeloma causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause kidney problems).
The crazy (well, ONE of the crazy parts of the story) is that I wasn’t awake for the diagnosis. Because of all other issues my body was facing, I was on a respirator and unconscious – a fate my husband describes as even more scary than my ultimate diagnosis. He had the awful job of telling his wife of nine years that she had cancer.
I am a 42-year-old mom of three beautiful children. BCD (BEFORE cancer diagnosis) I was happy to have my identity be “Jake, Kate & Shea’s mom”. It seemed normal to me that when people asked “how are you?” I tended to answer the question with how my KIDS were, not me. I didn’t really have anything all that interesting to share…god, I wish that were still the case.
Now, when people ask me “how are you?” or “what’s new?” I have to answer as someone with CANCER. No matter what happens to me, I will always be someone who has / had cancer (and for now it will be “has” given Multiple Myeloma is currently uncurable).
I don’t know what happens to the average person when they get this kind of news but for us what happened after has been overwhelmingly humbling and beyond our wildest imaginations. Friends and family from far and wide immediately started to mobilize to help ME and OUR family. The head of Oncology for Johnson & Johnson (where I have worked for 15 years) called a top-notch (aka KICK ASS) oncologist who specializes in this type of cancer ….three times…over a weekend…for ME? Emails from people we talk to every day to some perhaps not in years with genuine offers to do or get literally anything we needed. Websites created to create a care network, play dates & distracting little gifts for our kids, food dropped off…..the list goes on and on.
I am told this is a highly–treatable cancer but I also realized that I previously thought of there being “good cancers” vs. “bad cancers”. Let me tell you….haven’t met one I liked yet….they all just suck. That said, the doctors are very confident. I am not the typical patient for this type of type of cancer, I’m young, healthy (you know, aside from this) – all in my favor. The “typical” patient?…65+ year old, African American man. As a white female who has never so much has had a suntan in her life, only in my early 40s, you can see I’ve really nailed the demographic here!
Our plan to approach this is to stick with our AMAZING team of doctors at Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick NJ (my doctor is Dr. Roger Strair who is simply the best) AND our AMAZING village of support…people who have been so incredibly positive. These two halves – our medical team and our village – is I know, without question, pushing the positive results forward.
For my whole life, writing has been therapeutic for me. I’ve always wanted to write a blog so what better opportunity than this?… I had always imagined writing about something fun…being a Mommy blogger like so many people these days. Well this is my twist on Mommy blogging…I’m a mommy on a mission. I imagine there are other people like me who have been diagnosed with this crazy disease – young or old, white or black, moms or dad. If there is something I can write that might help someone else, then perhaps there is some reason this all happened.