• Mark Pajak

Simple Solutions.



Three months and counting. An M spike re-appeared in December after about five plus years of non-existence. My January and February numbers confirmed that the Myeloma was active again.

Fast forward to July.

The good news is that we are on top of the situation. When first diagnosed over six years ago, my M spike was 7.8. This time it was .9. A scan found only one spot of cancer this time around as opposed to “too many to count” lesions the first time around. The spot was “radiated-out” in only three visits.

The unfortunate yet totally predictable news is that it takes time and patience to find the effective dosages of medicine to thwart the Myeloma while minimizing the side-effects that usually are a part of most drug regimes.

I have been re-assured that this is very typical/predictable and that eventually we will get it “right”. However, between now and then it has been like a roller-coaster ride. While I am tremendously pleased with the resulting significant decrease of my M spike, I am not so pleased with the significant decrease of my neutrophils and the subsequent restrictions that are a part of not having much of an immune system. I imagine that someone out there reading this is chuckling and thinking – “been there, done that”. God bless you.

So, what about the uncertainty of it all? The almost ever-present anxiety and concern over both my myeloma and a low neutrophil count has been trying. Not to be too cynical but it appears that I got the anxiety “two for one” bonus package this time around.

Oh well, I am surviving. And, I want to live. So, I accept the uncertainty and my anxiety. I understand that treating cancer is a medical practice requiring patience and faith during the very real “trial and error” format that leads to solutions. It is not magic. You just cannot go to the “cookbook” and pull out the recipe for MM solutions at this time. Even though I am aware of this reality, I struggle.

Frankly, most of my life has been a series of “experiments”. Sometimes I got lucky (marriage to my wife of 30 plus years qualifies) and sometimes not so lucky (a compound fracture of my left wrist from saddling up on a horse that I thought I could ride). Looking back on the path traveled, there is no doubt that much has been learned from these “experiments”. And, truth be told, more has been gleaned from the not so desired results than from those that were easy to accommodate.

Most importantly, the results (and again mostly the not-so lucky results) teach me the unprecedented positive value of knowing who I am (the most critical piece of the puzzle for me). Self-knowledge allows me to move forward and not feel too sorry for myself when “things” do not go my way. It allows me to move forward while for the most part avoiding a “victim” mentality. It helps in avoiding the disappointments associated with believing that I am a superman that is immune to the pratfalls of my life’s journey.

Knowing who I am allows me to act in accordance with my desires/wants which of course are based upon a set of standards that are used to define a “good” life. I get to set that definition. Having multiple myeloma may impinge on my ability to live all of the “lives” that are available but it certainly does not prevent me from living a life that suits me and my defined values.

I have found that having MM requires me to be a bit more careful in regard to some of the physical tasks that I am going to take on. I am constantly re-learning my limits as I age and survive. What I am capable of and what no longer makes much sense for me to tackle is somewhat of a moving target.

Getting to know myself all over again is sort of fun. To this point it has come with laughter, sadness, strength, wisdom, anxiety, worry, generosity, courage, pain, wonder, appreciation, frustration, madness (as in at times I get crazy), fear, tears of joy, tears of sorrow, understanding, an increase acceptance of others, etc, etc, etc.

Wow, quite the listing.

Moving forward, learning who I am and having an idea as to the expected response(s) to the expected and unexpected challenge(s) of the roller coaster ride that life presents when living with MM can help me in my efforts at maintaining a sense of sanity and perspective.

I have also certainly learned to recognized when not to “saddle up” on a horse that is just not quite ready to be taken for a ride.

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