10-year multiple myeloma survivor: Why I joined a clinical trial at MD Anderson
When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma at age 63, it actually didn’t bother me. I felt like whatever this was, God had a plan charted for my life before I was even born. Apparently, cancer was meant to be a part of it. So, there was no sense in getting angry or upset about it or throwing myself a big pity party. This was just my lot in life.
Surprise multiple myeloma diagnosis leads to first round of treatment
By the time I was diagnosed, my disease was not considered curable. Multiple myeloma has only three stages, and I was in the final one. I’d experienced no symptoms, save a little back pain. But an X-ray showed cancerous lesions all over my spine and rib cage. Two of my vertebrae had cracked because the cancer was growing through the bone.
I had a stem cell transplant using my own cells on July 9, 2013. Recovery was rough. I ended up back in the hospital the next two Christmases in a row for various issues. But after that, I finally started getting better.
Unfortunately, my cancer relapsed just a few years later. But Dr. Wang said I was a good candidate for a clinical trial involving a new targeted therapy drug now called daratumumab. If I joined it, I’d get an infusion of that drug once a month, then take an oral chemotherapy drug called pomalidomide once every other day for 21 days out of each month.
I thought about all the people who have cancer, and how some of them can deal with it pretty well and others can’t. I felt like me having this disease might be an opportunity for doctors to study it more closely and possibly find a cure. So, if I could help out with that process, I wanted to do it.
Life after a stem cell transplant and a targeted therapy clinical trial
I joined the clinical trial in September 2015. It went really well, and the experimental treatment I received put me back in remission within a year.
I still have a little weakness in my arms and legs. And I’m taking a different course of drugs today due to another relapse. I may have to keep taking it for the rest of my life. But that’s OK.
I don’t get around as easily as I’d like to anymore, but I’m alive and able to do most of the things I want to do. When I was diagnosed in 2012, the life expectancy for someone with multiple myeloma was only five years. And here I am, still around after 10 years.
I also see multiple myeloma specialist Dr. Elisabet Manasanch now instead of Dr. Wang, because he shifted his practice to focus on a very specific subtype of cancer that’s different from mine. I really hated to lose him, because Dr. Wang was great. But all of the doctors and staff I’ve met at MD Anderson have been wonderful. And I am grateful for the care of both Dr. Wang and Dr. Manasanch.
I believe if my life’s journey were finished, then I would be finished, too. So, I must not have done everything I’m supposed to do just yet. I am grateful to both God and MD Anderson for giving me more time to meet my goals, because I know with their help, I will.