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  • Writer's pictureMark Pajak


What would happen if you were given the chance to have a new life? One huge do-over!!! Now, how does that sound?

Often times my mind wanders to the “what am I doing” question. And lately that question has been tweaked somewhat to look like “what do I want to do” with my Multiple Myeloma life.

When first diagnosed, I can say for certain that what concerned me the most was surviving. Scared, uncertain about everything and totally in the dark as to what Multiple Myeloma cancer was about, survival was the goal. Making it to the next day, the next appointment or treatment, the next week, next month, and so on determined my behavior. I was very concerned with how much time did I have before I was to die. I can say it became an obsession, the only thought I had.

Sensing this, at the start of my treatments, my oncologist told me that having cancer did not change two very important facts: 1. Having cancer did not mean that I/he knew when I was going to die; 2. In addition to not knowing when I was going to die, having cancer did not mean that I or he knew how I was going to die (same as in my cancer-free life).

Having Multiple Myeloma, he explained, added another ingredient to my life. He made certain that I understood this. Moving forward was about a positive response to treatments both physically and emotionally. No more, no less. At the end of our visits, he would often say something to the effect of “keep living”.

This new ingredient called MM was one of the biggest life ingredients that had ever been added to my life. And just like the ingredients of marriage and fatherhood changed me, this new ingredient (a cancer diagnosis) was also a game changer.

Life with MM was now the basis by which I would move forward. There was no more “cancer free” life.

So, how does/would this new life work?

Well, as with the old life, the new life provided no guarantees or sure bets. There were no promises of pain-free living or of everlasting joy. No promises were issued. There was not a parting of the clouds, thunderbolts or words of wisdom from on-high. Nothing dramatic was noticed.

I began to contemplate a new life by romanticizing the old and feeling somewhat cheated that it had ended. I was quite content in my old life. I liked it a lot. I did not want it to end. So much of what I was focusing on and grateful for initially involved my old life.

I still got to keep my wife and kids (I say “keep” not in an ownership way but in a way that allowed me to maintain a relationship with the very most important people that I know). I still had relationship with my sisters, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, my golfing buddies and my friends who I have coffee and breakfast with on occasion. I got to maintain my job, got to stay in the same house and drive the same cars.

Yes, there were numerous trips to the hospital, numerous poking and prodding’s. There was a bone marrow transplant, pills, pills and more pills however all of which was done for the sake of keeping me alive – survival.

AHH, but then something happened. I cannot pinpoint the event or moment that brought clarity but what came to me was the realization that what I was doing/how I was living was tied to trying to get my old life back, trying to recapture my cancer-free life. In doing so, I was wasting the opportunity that was given to me to start a new life.

Multiple Myeloma made it very clear that life is not a “forever” kind of situation. It made it abundantly clear I was responsible for how this game of life moving forward would be played. It took a while, but eventually I was able to recognize that there was an opportunity to re-organize, adjust and to implement changes in my life – changes that would reflect a new life.

The old life provided a starting point, a foundation. From there, I tried to reflect and adopt new routines manifesting the values, goals and new perspectives as I moved forward in my new life.

Surprisingly, I found that the new perspectives often left me feeling like I was living in a foreign country, witnessing life as an outsider. Much of what I saw around me was of no interest or decreased interest. I was not the same person I used to be however I was so grateful for that which I had.

My new life has provided new routines and a new directional compass which opened a reality previously not available.

A huge “do-over”? Could be.


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