We visited the radiology oncologist the other day, mostly to determine if myeloma had already damaged my right clavicle, which I had fractured during a recent weather-related fall.
Mind you, the fracture was causing me no pain whatsoever. My ribs and sternum hurt a lot, but X-rays showed no breaks, and the oncologist chalked it up to severe bruising.
Since he’s fairly sure that the myeloma had already damaged the clavicle, we are returning for another CAT scan to help him define the area that he will radiate so that the myeloma cells will be killed dead, dead, dead for a ducat (with apologies to William Shakespeare). If possible, he also will look at the initial rib damage suffered during the wasp attack to see what’s up with that.
The radiation treatments will be zeroed in on a very small, very specific area, and will not go especially deep. I will have one treatment a day for five consecutive days and that should be that.
All this work will be done in Augusta, which is about 25 minutes from home; an obvious plus in having such a renowned cancer treatment facility nearby, especially one that works so closely with my support staff at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s in Boston.
Once again, I find myself wondering if these falls, as much pain and misery as they cost, weren’t actually a blessing in disguise. If multiple myeloma was, in fact, chewing on my clavicle, without the fall, how much damage could it have done before it was discovered? Instead of an incomplete fracture, couldn’t any subsequent fall have been far worse? Just askin’.
Earlier in this journey, I wrote about bucket lists and New Year’s resolutions; the thought being that instead of putting things off to a list, you ought to live each and every day to the fullest. I still believe that, maybe more than ever.
But here’s the thing, at least for me. Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman wrote Tim McGraw’s country hit song “Live Like You Were Dying.” It’s a great song sung by a great singer, and I loved it long before I got sick. But, right now, when my reality runs up against the song’s inspirational lyrics, my reality gets its ass kicked.
My living life to the fullest doesn’t involve sky diving, Rocky Mountain climbing, or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu. It doesn’t mean going to Nepal to stare at the Himalayas, or finding people from my past that I know I hurt so that they can see how much I’ve changed; how I wouldn’t hurt them now.
My living life to the fullest means staying as strong as I can and filling out the next form, making the next phone call, applying for grants to offset the cost of my principal chemo treatment. It means staying as positive as I can, while realizing that some days that’s not going to be very positive.
My wife, Sheri, and I both need to let people help us with tasks, mundane and major. Be it positive or negative in the grand scheme of things, if we’d called someone to drag the 60-pound sandbag down to the cellar door, I wouldn’t have fallen and so on.
I guess now would be a good time to remind myself, and you, that dying does not appear anywhere in my treatment plan or prognosis. However… let’s face it, my life has been unequivocally altered by all of this. How could it not be?
Live like you were dying? Live like your life has been unequivocally altered? Who knows. As time goes by and the amount of paperwork diminishes, when we don’t plan our days around clinic visits, treatments and phone calls, maybe we can do some of the cool things. The drawback to that, I guess, is that Sheri and I consider few things cooler than enjoying each other’s company and making each other laugh. I’m able to share how I feel with my daughters, Jennifer and Alison, and my stepdaughter, Kristie, rather than do the crazy cover-up dance my parents always did when there was bad news in the air. And from what you tell me, I’m able to speak for a lot of you when I write. So, I guess my life is pretty full at that.
Once upon a time, I actually did want to ride a bull, though not necessarily one named Fumanchu. Now, when I even think about it, I hear entire staffs of medical professionals screaming, “Nooooooooooo.” OK, myeloma, you win this one, but you better enjoy while you can.
Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.