The Mutiple Myeloma Bucket List: Living it out or OUTliving it – A young woman’s journey


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I can recall exactly as I sat up in my hospital bed groggy and in pain. My husband and father to my left my doctor at the foot of my bed, my sister to my right, and the nurse adding bags of donor blood to the IV. Everyone wide eyed in anticipation. “We are going to give you a blood transfusion because you are anemic and about 2 quarts low”, she said in her giggly voice. My doctor looked like a female version of Doogie Howzer. I missed the part as she introduced herself as my oncologist. “Okay”, I managed to reply with a tired tone. She updated me with the results of my CT scan and MRI. “You have some dark spots or lesions on your rib cage, lower spine, and a few on your skull”, she cheerily informed me. My first thought was how much she sounded like she should be sis-boom-bah-ing or something at a pep rally rather than trying to get me to take her diagnosis seriously.

Ok, Pam, back to the present…what is she trying to tell me? Omg, she is tiny. My dogs have squeaky toys bigger than her. I managed to keep a straight face no matter the silly comedic thoughts passing through my mind. “Spots?”, we all asked dumbly at the same time. Then the doctor went rigid and said, as if I should have already known, “Tumors, you have tumors on your bones. You have multiple myeloma. This is a cancer in the blood. Not bone cancer, but can cause tumors to grow through the marrow and fractures.” All of our faces went white and my father almost fainted. “How did I get that?”. “There is no way to know for sure. It is not genetic or hereditary. It can sneak up on anyone at any time. Its more common in older people in their ‘60’s. The good news is it’s treatable, but not curable.”, she informed us. Returning to her hip cheer leader like attitude, she gave orders for the chemotherapy “Valcade” to enter my veins after the 1st bag of blood, then the 2nd quart started. I immediately had a reaction. I went dead cold. It was like an iceberg melting into my bones and I started shaking violently. Shivering and chattering my teeth uncontrollably, I asked the nurse to stop the IV. I managed a calm I didn’t know I had while having convulsions. I commanded “Stop IV!, unplug me..” – immediate reaction to my speaking not the dynamic body contortions. The doctor complimented me “I have never seen anyone keep their calm like you did, Pam. Wow!” –Uh, oh now the delivery “You are young, a lot of people live with this for a long time”

Ok, I went with that. Stayed calm followed doctors’ orders. Made my appointments for necessary chemo treatments, labs, and oncology surgery team consultation, costs, made life changes, got on disability, lost my ability to walk normally, my eyesight is diminishing, I still have my hair and have no wrinkles….then I was told that I may not be able to keep my dogs and cat! One doctor had the nerve to tell me that I probably would want get rid of my “kids” (dogs and cat). That’s it! Now they have lost their minds. I kept my cool and spent the last month or so brooding over “what do I do now?”. NO WAY, will I give up my kids any more than I will give up my life to live in a bubble.

Most, would be complacent and just go along with whatever those doctors will tell you. I mean, what else could you expect under the devastating circumstances. Two days ago I was given 5 years. You don’t know if you have 5 months, 5 years, or 15 years left of life. At my age of 43, you are asking yourself “what am I supposed to do? Rush to write a last will and testament or medical directive? Do I have enough time and money to write out and fulfill a bucket list? What family do I tell? Which friends? Who do I have for an emergency back up? Do I still have a chance at having children? Raising a family? Ever owning a home? Who do I call when I need to cry or ask to meet for a coffee? What about birthdays and holidays? Will I get to work again or help others? What about family in other countries, will they come visit or vice versa? Is there time enough for…..?? What can I accomplish in a short time that will last a life time? Do I have enough time to clean out the storage unit? What have I done with my life? Will I be remembered? What do I have to pass on, no kids or grandchildren.

What kind of bucket list can I make? The kind where I list: Rock climbing on Kilmanjaro, Parachute out of a plane, 2 week cruise to Greece and Italy, make my husband take me on that “honeymoon he has always promised me”, and so forth. Or list a little more down to earth like: See Jon Bon Jovi in concert, See a Las Vegas show for the first time, win the lottery, buy a new living & dining room set. How have I lived my life? What will matter most now?……how qualitative I can live out the rest of my life and make myself feel about the person I have become and live as best as I can while I reach out to much loved family and friends that I have never forgotten.

I think the real key to a complete healing from a serious illness such as mine is made up of 3 components.

1. Spiritual

2. Physical

3. Emotional

While, I think my multiple myeloma does need a To-Do-List. It does not require my last rites nor some unobtainable bucket-wish-list. My “bucket list” will be made up of these 3 components and I will keep a journal of each one that applies to my healing process. As I see myself making progress in getting rid of this illness I will make the most of my life. After all, I do not want to end up being a pissed off ghost that has no closure. Or be condemned to repeating this life until I get something right.

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