My journey began in 2007 when laughing with a colleague, I got severe
pain in my side, behind my breast. I couldn’t really put my finger on the
location. I couldn’t breathe and the pain was excruciating. It was a
pulmonary embolism; blood clot in the lower lobe of my lung.
There was no explanation for this. I was a healthy 46 yr old mother of 3,
who was physically fit, without a significant family history. I treated with
blood thinners…initially injecting myself in the stomach twice a day and
eventually, ingesting pills to ensure all blood cells were swimming freely
through my veins. This went on for a year…still without any explanation
about where this clot came from and why. At the conclusion
of this treatment protocol, discussing the next steps with my primary care
physician, his suggestion was that we could keep an eye on things and I
could move on with my life or I could consult with a Hematology Oncologist;
a cancer doctor with a specialty in blood disorders. I needed an answer and
I was determined to search until i got it! Of course I was going to consult
with this specialist. It was this appt. that would change my life. My Dr. told
me that I had all of the markers for Multiple Myeloma. My first response
was …what the heck is MM?
Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow; a blood cancer.
My world changed forever. My next conversation with my husband and
family was about what the next move would be. I am a product of parents
who raised me to face my challenges and deal with them head on..to pull
up my “big girl panties” and handle the situation. It was time for action. A
second opinion, reaching out to any and all of my colleagues in the medical
industry for insight, and to the Internet for answers. That was probably the
worst place for me to go. At that point, too much information is not always a
good thing. It might as well have been Chinese. The medical terminology is
mind boggling. The worst case scenario can always be found. After
doing my research about treatment facilities for this MM, the decision was
made to seek treatment in Little Rock, Arkansas.
My husband and I moved to Little Rock from Jan 1, 2008 to the end of June
of that same year.The experience within that 6 mos was one I would never have imagined. I won’t recount the gory details of the most grueling and physically
challenging treatment I’ve ever had. What I do want to share is the
opportunity God gave me to be a witness to His grace and mercy. What I’m
proud to share is that my God never left me…He would never forsake me. I
am so fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband who found us a
place to live, navigated through the maze of insurance issues and wet
wiped every chair and door knob before I touched it! God sent that man to
me…over 20 yrs ago…because He knew what… and who I would need in
2008. That’s how good and omnipotent He is!
What I share with you today is that faith… the size of a mustard seed.. .can
move mountains. It’s like a muscle that must be exercised.
My husband named the toughest days of this journey, the “valley” days.
There were plenty of those. To be physically at ZERO… No immune system
and no strength… I prayed the Footsteps prayer. I asked God, many times,
to pick me up and carry me… and I knew that He would.
I often times told others that having cancer isn’t such a big deal. It’s the
treatment that’ll take you down. I had what was called a Tandem Stem Cell
Transplant. I received significant doses of chemotherapy; what I call the
“good poison”, had my red and white blood cells harvested through a
process called Apheresis, more chemotherapy and then a transplant where
I received my own previously harvested blood cells. It was called tandem
because the process happened twice. Back to back. March of 2008 and
again in April of 2008. Those would become My new birthdays! Just as I
was beginning to feel like maybe I wouldn’t die after the first transplant
process, it was time to start it all over again. I officially achieved Remission
status in 2009. I then continued Maintenance treatment for the next 3 yrs.
after coming home; every Friday a small dose of chemo to ensure any
errant cancer cells would be destroyed. We hit it hard; fast and furious. My
cancer treatment would officially conclude in December of 2012.
What I bring to you today is my expression of joy that I chose to honor God
because of this diagnosis, and not to curse Him. I did have a choice!
Because of the choice I made, the ripple effect has had exponential impact.
We all have choices.
My testimony is that because of the investment of time and energy and
experience, I have extended family in Little Rk, Ar. Whom I have come to
love and cherish. My love for God has truly enriched my life. I live with a
perspective that can only be understood by some. I’m thankful every single
day He allows me to wake up and approach the day with an intent to be
better than I was yesterday. He’s blessed me with the opportunity to speak
to others who may be facing their own cancer journey, to give them
encouragement or just be a sounding board for their fears, anger or
confusion. Sometimes I’m the voice o f empowerment because you MUST
be your own best advocate! I’ve always sung in church but I’m told that I
now sing with a new voice…a more passionate voice and I’m truly joyful
when I sing. It’s not about sickness. It’s about healing and faithfulness and
the power of prayer!
The body is an amazing temple of God. Its resilience and restorative
powers are phenomenal. I am stronger now, at 54, than I’ve ever been. I’ve
participated in the Ride for Roswell for the past 5 yrs, not only riding my
bike 30 miles for the fundraising event, but have been ranked in the top 25
(out of thousands of riders) each year, for funds raised. The opportunities
have been bountiful and I continue to embrace them!
This experience has impacted all of those who are close to me. I had a
team of Prayer Warriors; steadfast and committed. Being away from my
family, friends, church family and colleagues for 6 months was so very
difficult. It was the path I chose and it was necessary so that I can share my
perspective regarding His mercy and grace with others. My Caregivers; my
husband Greg… my mother Johnnie, were God’s angels on Earth, sent for
me. Our lives have been forever altered.
I’m a Survivor and I celebrate all of those…too many, who’ve gone before
me who have lost their battle. I’m a blessed Child of God.