After a year of, at times, debilitating back pain that was thought to be from overexertion, or "tripping" over a stump, and increasing and frequent fatigue, he finally went for a check up in November after his outdoor school session was over. As test after test came back, results all pointed to Multiple Myeloma, the second most common form of blood cancer. Multiple Myeloma cancer cells are found in the plasma of the bone marrow, of the spine, hip, pelvic regions. It starts with a single cell whose chromosomes translocate or mutate and those abnormal cells start replicating themselves like crazy. Multiple Myeloma (MM) is a rather complicated disease which manifests in a number of ways, including affecting calcium levels, renal function, anemia, and bone density. In Will's case it went for the vertebrae in his back causing compression fractures of, well lets just say, many of his vertebrae. Hence the tremendous back pain. His body also started producing way too many M proteins which the body can't use, and they got stacked up in his kidneys to a very dangerous level, causing reduced kidney function. Thankfully the oncologist caught it and immediately put him in the hospital right before Christmas - a very big surprise.
We were thrust very quickly into a world we knew nothing about, neither one of us had ever spent even a night in the hospital, take no prescription drugs and very rarely see doctors. Our endless questions probably drove the doctors and nurses nuts but we kept at it trying to understand this new inhabitant in our lives. At this point there is no cure, but we are buoyed up by the rate of new research, drugs and treatments being developed at a rapid pace. A web site I have found useful, if you are so inclined, is multiple myeloma research foundation (https://www.themmrf.org/
). It explains the disease in great detail much better than my cryptic attempt.
Will-"Cherokee" started chemo treatments while in the hospital. For him it consists of a weekly visit to the oncology unit at Kaiser Permanente Interstate Office where he receives a quick injection. The other two chemo drugs he takes orally on the same day. So far, he's been tolerating it quite well, being able to drive eat well and do things. Perhaps sleeping a bit more but other than that, so far so good. His blood is checked weekly and right now he seems to be responding to the chemo. The most disconcerting thing we have read about this is how quickly this cancer can change course but for right now at this moment we are thankful and hopeful.
He also has a back brace which keeps his back in a form of traction and potentially prevent any more compression or other fractures. I call him my amazing bionic man, when he is all strapped in like a bullet proof vest almost.
At this point he is looking at many more weeks of chemo to kill as many of the cancer cells as possible without putting strain on his kidneys. Then at some point a stem cell transplant using his own cells, which will require a month long hospital stay and recovery time. But more about that when the time comes.
All in all, his rational, logical self is serving him well, and I have come to admire his courage and strength. He will not be on site this spring but will continue to support the outdoor school program in different ways.
One of the hardest parts is our living situation. An unsold house in Casper, Wyoming impacts our housing options. Currently, Will is in Portland, and I am in North Bend, Washington, which necessitates a 3.5 hour minimum commute. Far from ideal, but we see each other as often as work commitments allow.
It is Sunday, January 14, and he drove up here to North Bend after his chemo treatment on Wednesday, but will soon drive back to Portland after he approves this entry.
We are thankful for your friendship, and for being in his/our lives. We know that news of a cancer diagnosis impacts people differently, so please know there are no expectations.. Just our ramblings from time to time and the continued good news of how he is kicking butt on the cancer cells. (how is that for optimism)
To all - Be well live well...and be thankful! Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.