Friday marked the first anniversary of my being diagnosed with cancer.

How do I feel one year down the road? Good question. For one thing, I thought the road would be much more direct. I thought, “I have cancer, and we’ll come up with a treatment plan and follow it and there you are.”

Now, I look at that thought and wonder, “What in your life experience to that point could have made you think that could possibly happen?” Wishful thinking? Hopeless naivete? Blind faith?

At the very beginning, my friend Pinky — his name is John, actually, but everyone who knows him calls him Pinky, not sure why — told me to be prepared for what I knew was going to happen because what I had no clue about would knock me on my butt. He would know. He and his wife both survived terrible illnesses and supported each other while they did so. It’s certainly proved to be true in my journey.

Surprises have been more of a constant than … well … the constant. When all is said and done, though, none of that really matters. Damaged chromosome? Doesn’t matter. Negative reaction to medications? Doesn’t matter. Having influenza A and food poisoning in the same week, followed closely by a broken collarbone? Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter.

What matters is refusing to be defeated by any of it. So far, so good.


As part of “The Year in Review,” I’ve been rereading the blogs I’ve written. There were some constants in the writing: my attitude remained positive; I was thankful for the medical staff who have been helping me; I have been buoyed by the letters, emails, Facebook posts and so on from so many of you, wishing me well, offering prayers, and so many of you I didn’t know when the journey began; the love and support of my wife and children.

In regards to my wife Sheri — in the beginning I said I felt that it was “we” who had cancer, not just I. That has certainly proven to be the case. We have gone through a lot together and continue to do so.

In my early writing, optimism and positive thoughts seemed to be easier to come by. There was a clean feel to the writing, uncluttered by random feelings and emotions. The path was clear, and we were on it.

With time, though, the writing seemed to become less optimistic. Fear, anxiety, extreme fatigue, persistent pain and discomfort, nausea, all took their toll. Neither my writing nor my mood became particularly dark, but there was more of a sense of what the stakes were. I was literally betting my life on all this stuff.

Multiple myeloma is incurable. It doesn’t really go into remission, my doctors tell me. It sneaks off and hides, but some of it is always in my system — though we don’t know where — waiting to come back and ruin an otherwise lovely day.

Looking over the past year gives me a headache, and we still haven’t discovered anything about my constant stomach pain. What would I have said if you’d told me in October that I would do all the right things, take all the right treatments, have a tremendously successful stem cell transplant and still feel this lousy because of a stomach ailment most likely unrelated to my cancer? Well, I don’t know what I would have said, but it wouldn’t have been fit for your kids to read, I can tell you that.

My scheduled colonoscopy was canceled when I threw up all 64 ounces of pre-procedure liquid the night before the event. I would have to reschedule. All the fasting, liquid diet and bland food were for naught. We are still trying to reschedule. Pinky’s admonition came to me again. I’ve faced what I was prepared for, but tossing up 64 ounces of anything wasn’t in the plans, and that has caused a real pain in my butt.

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,

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