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Monoclonal Gammopathies of Undetermined Significance? Smoldering Myeloma? Multiple Myeloma?
These were the possible diagnoses by my hematologist (another new doc!) after a high protein count in my blood work during my annual physical lead her to more specific tests. She was leaning toward the "smoldering" diagnosis, but wanted to confirm with a bone marrow biopsy (sounds worse than it was). This was all in December 2017.
Luckily, my dear wife, JoBeth, was with me. She's been my rock through this and other challenges we've faced. All while raising our four wonderful daughters (all productive members of society!).
I was shocked to learn that there is no cure for myeloma. But there was a glimmer of hope when told that it is treatable. We didn't know all that meant.
After a wait for the pathology results and time for the holidays, on January 8, 2018, I learned of a very high concentration (80%) of the abnormal plasma cells in the marrow and I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. I started a chemo regimen a week later.
I feel extremely grateful and lucky that I started this journey with an abnormal blood test. I have no symptoms, responded well to chemo, and tolerated the chemo with few and only minor side effects. Some people are first diagnosed with bone pain or breaks, kidney failure or other end organ damage.
The cause is not known, but exposure to industrial chemicals, radiation, or other items may play a role. There may be a genetic angle, or a combination of factors. Given that, I urge all my firefighter brothers and sisters (especially those of us that go back to the "leather lung" days in the early 1970s when we were just starting to use SCBAs, not so much in overhaul, once the fire was knocked down) to keep up with your health screenings. A simple blood test likely saved my life!
The team at Inova Hematology, including Drs. Cole and Khan, the staff in the lab, and especially the nurses and techs in the infusion center were nothing short of incredible and supportive. Weekly Velacde injections and decadron doses, and 21-days of Revlimid (and 7 days off) for six 28-day cycles, followed by two more biopsies have lead me to "nearly full remission." So, I'm on to the next step: Autogolous Stem Cell Transplant.
After some research and reviews, I decided to have Dr. Ashraf Badros at the University of Maryland Medical Center do the procedure. Did being a Terp have any influence on my decision? Probably not, but it's a nice coincidence.