Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hello & My Recent Myeloma Beacon Article

Happy February!

It's starting to get cold here in the Ozarks of southwest Missouri. Up until now we've been averaging temperatures 20 degrees warmer than normal. No snow to speak of and much to the chagrin of my teacher wife and two school-aged daughters, no snow days off from school!  Not complaining, mind you, it could change any minute!

I've attached a  link to my most recent Myeloma Beacon article Sean's Burgundy Thread: Just This Week .
If you are interested in all-things-myeloma, the MB is a great site to visit.

As some of you have asked, I'm also re-printing the article as follows:

Sean’s Burgundy Thread: Just This Week

 Published: Feb 7, 2012 at the Myeloma Beacon

Just this week, an acquaintance of mine passed away due to complications from his long-running battle against multiple myeloma.  He was treated at the same out-of-state myeloma clinic at which I was treated. We occasionally ran into each other at the local cancer center where we both received maintenance chemotherapy.

He was fifteen years my senior and had a lot of medical problems aside from myeloma. Ultimately his kidneys were destroyed, he was on dialysis, his heart was diseased, and he had trouble getting around most days. While his condition dictated that he could no longer go hunting or fishing or walking in the woods that he loved so much, it was okay, though, because he quipped that he was ‘filled-up with enough outdoor memories to last two lifetimes!’

Although he had so much going against him, I never saw him without a huge, friendly grin on his face that broke into a hearty belly-laugh now and then. The oncology nurses painted the same picture of him.  Their sadness at his passing was profound.

I knew that he was in pain, but he never seemed to pity himself and he never failed to show concern for how I was doing. He told me to stay strong and to ‘enjoy today, because today is what you have and you don’t want to waste it.’

I didn’t know him outside our short visits at the infusion center, but his courage, his humor, and his thousand-watt smile will stay with me forever. I’d wager that his was a life well lived and that there were people all over the place who felt a connection with him.

He was much bigger than his myeloma.

Just this week, I ran into an old friend who had been a performer in some live musical shows that I had produced several years before. She was wildly talented and exceedingly bright, and it was always a great joy to be around her. In the busyness of life, we’d lost contact.

She was in town this week serving as the coach of a visiting high school’s girls basketball team that was facing my freshman daughter’s high school team.  Watching her work, it was obvious that she had taken the same passion, exacting skill, and determination that she possessed as a top-drawer entertainer, into the coaching and teaching fields. It was heartwarming to see the love and respect that her kids had for their coach.

Before the game, I caught her attention and waved hello to her. She smiled, came over, and gave me one of her patented bear hugs. The last time that I had an opportunity to visit with her in person was many months before at the benefit that her school had created to show support for her fight against breast cancer.
At the time of her benefit, she was sporting the proverbial ‘cancer uniform.’ You probably know it well: ball cap or scarf, no hair, gaunt appearance, fear etched deeply in her eyes. When she weakly hugged me, tears came to both of us.  I was afraid for her. All we could do was to say that it was going to be okay. I didn’t know if either of us believed it.

Breast cancer wasn’t the only difficult period in my friend’s life. She has overcome other challenges that would undo most of us.  But through her subsequent struggle with cancer, I have seen an amazing faith in God emerge that has buoyed and comforted her husband and young children, her friends like me, and her community. She has touched the lives of many people undergoing cancer treatment.

She recently announced that the doctors have declared her to be cancer free.  My dear friend is much bigger than breast cancer!

When I was diagnosed with myeloma and eventually understood the sobering nature and reality of facing cancer, I remember sitting down with my wife and saying that I wanted to be able to look back on our journey and say that we did our best in fighting it, that we would let the experience only strengthen our family bond, and that we would live with dignity, courage, and faith, no matter the outcome.

Just this week, I was reminded by one friend who passed away and by one friend who lives on, that we are not defined by cancer.  Multiple myeloma may someday take my life, but it does not own me. The caption of my existence will be the strength of my character, the depth of my relationships, my willingness to reach out to others and show compassion, and my ability to stand on my faith no matter what comes my way.

Don’t forget, you and I are much bigger than myeloma ever will be.

1 comment:

Dom and Nan said...

Oh, Sean.... I have a tear in my eye!

Dom and I were never "religious", but we sure became "spiritual" after his diagnosis.

Stay strong, my friend!