I didn't know that Multiple Myeloma (MM) was a terminal illness.
Life is terminal, but this disease gives it a capital "T."
It was several weeks before I came to understand that this incurable affliction might have the possibility of 'management' to ameliorate the terminality of it... to find a way to arrest it for awhile... some even realize a remission. But that news was slow to come as the reality emerged of a disease that can be so individualized it can make all treatments seem like clinical trials.
I didn't comprehend that lots of individuals who are too "young" by the statistical models were being infiltrated by a cancer that used to be strictly in the elderly; cells that are so pervasive, so crafty, so capable of mutating and multiplying that this disease is significantly on the rise in younger men and women. Why?
Can you catch it? Does it spread like a cold? According to the current statistical information, it is of unknown origin, but it gets into the blood plasma, changes the cell structure and starts destroying the organism (human being) from the inside (like termites attacking a frame house) by altering bone structure, creating lesions which weaken the bones. And the reason it's called "multiple" is that when it strikes, it doesn't just arrive in one place, but is often found in many places.
President Obama's directive on stem cell research may eventually help those who are diagnosed with this disease early enough to have more effective stem cell transplants, and other research is going on now to try and figure out how to stop those MM cells from proliferating, even after chemotherapy. And to try and develop a way to keep outwitting cells that can mutate so that, for some sufferers, there are no more chemical solutions.
How do you know if you've got it? The symptoms (and it is unusual for one to have all of them) are subtle. The individual who caused me to be suddenly aware of this invader had been really sick with various sinus infections all during the winter. Because of the small child in the family, it was thought that the new school environment was introducing all sorts of new germs. And a persistent back pain was attributed to over-exercising in order to 'get into better shape,' and thus better fight off the school germs. And fatigue.
Thus it was that finally (and I say finally in that way because the physician was derelict in this respect: the patient did not have a history of being this kind of sick and after the third round of antibiotics for a sinus infection in less than a year, it should have sent up some kind of alarm bells.) the individual received the in-depth analysis required to unearth the cause of the infections - but it was almost too late. Brought back from the brink of kidney failure, sepsis, blood clots and other complications, treatment was initiated and continues today.
And today, right now, there are other precious men and women fighting their own MM battles across the US and in other countries. And no one really knows what causes it. Cigarettes cause lung cancer and perhaps some pancreatic cancers. Asbestos causes a variety of cancers. Chemicals such as those found in the Love Canal cause certain cancers. Why was MM primarily a disease of elderly men and is now surfacing in both sexes at younger and younger ages? Why do men of African descent tend to be even more vulnerable to it? What were elderly men exposed to 60 or 70 years ago that men and women in their 40s and 50s and even in their 20s are being 'contaminated' by today? How long does it take MM to imbed itself? New information suggests that MGUS may be a pre-cursor, a marker for potential MM sites.
These are some of the questions that the researchers must ask.
Since so many of those currently with MM come from so many different lifestyles, communities, educational backgrounds, social and cultural histories, this does not appear to be an environmental cancer like asbestos. And, for some reason, it appears that this kind of cancer has not received much publicity even though some well-known individuals have succumbed to it: actor Peter Boyle, WalMart founder Sam Walton, author John Ricco, and it is no secret (see link to MSNBC report) that Geraldine Ferraro has been living with it for at least a decade.
There are, now that summer is in full swing, a lot of sites where people are announcing fund-raising 'runs' for those with cancer. I am not here to tell you to donate, but think about a world without cancer... think about what it takes to find cures for any kind of disease and if you think your world is not going to be touched by the "C" word, think again. But think about what is the one chemical that everyone is exposed to now... flouride. In the water, in toothpaste, and where else? Is this the cause? I don't know, but it's caused me to wonder, because a year ago, I could never have imagined what cancer might do to our family.