After the doctor left the room we all realized we were dealing with something much worse than we thought. Dad knew it too. He turned to me and said, “In my briefcase there is a little green book. In it is everything you need to know.” I think I may have turned white at that point. He was talking of course about account numbers, bank accounts, life insurance, etc. I wasn’t ready to hear that. I told him we wouldn’t worry about that just yet.
The next few days in the hospital were up and down. Dad must have had 4 dozen tests. Blood work, CT scans, skeletal surveys, 24 hour urine studies, bone marrow biopsies, on and on. He started to call the staff vampires because of all the blood he gave. We started to hear more about multiple myeloma as well during this time. It is cancer of your blood plasma cells. We started to become familiar with terms such as abnormal proteins, immunoglobulins, renal function, creatinine, IgG, IgA, lytic lesions, and stem cells. It really didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it seemed quite complicated and complex. Then we were told about staging – which is different for blood cancers than with more typical tumors. In multiple myeloma there are only 3 stages, and if you’re exhibiting any symptoms due to the disease you’re automatically a stage 3. Great.
We finally talked to an oncologist named Dr. Holly Dushkin on Sunday. She went through the routine again about multiple myeloma and told us what they were looking for and about the hallmarks of the disease. She didn’t want us jumping to conclusions, but she came out and said, “I’m not saying you definitely have it, but I’m pretty sure you have it.” She seemed pretty confident to me. She also told us she was very interested in MM and seemed eager to treat dad. I suppose that’s good, but at the same time I’d rather not let some doctor use my father as a test case. She does work with a large group of experienced oncologists who she consults with, so that’s a bit reassuring.
Of course after hearing this news all the kids are on the internet looking for prognoses and treatments. I read a lot about Thalidomide and Velcade and stem cell transplants. I saw the numbers on 5 year survival rates. I didn’t want to believe them. There have been many advances in treatments in the last 10 years. Those rates are based on treatments maybe 20 years old. There are several prominent people living with MM who have been coping with it successfully for many years such as Kathy Giusti from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and Geraldine Ferraro. Their stories give us hope – which is exactly what we need right now.