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  • Writer's pictureMark Pajak


I have a tough time staying asleep at night which I have been told does not make me unique. Getting a solid 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep seems unattainable. So early last Tuesday morning (2:00 am) I found myself sitting in our lounge chair flipping to the movie channel hoping something was playing on TV which would aid in my attempt to fall back asleep.

And what did I find? A pseudo-documentary made I believe in 1979 of the Swedish singing group ABBA. That should work I thought. However, before long, rather than falling asleep I found myself watching the movie with interest. It follows the trials and tribulations of a radio personality who had the task of getting a one-on-one interview with the singers as they toured in Australia. What had me sitting up, paying attention was that when the radio personality interviewed people of all ages and genders about why they liked ABBA, a single word was repeated somewhere in their answers. HAPPY.

My on-line dictionary defines “happy” as such. Happy (Adjective); a feeling of pleasure or contentment; a sense of satisfaction with a person, arrangement, or situation; satisfaction with the quality or standard.

Hmmm, happy and living with MM. Is it possible? Or it is oxymoronic to believe that feelings of pleasure or contentment can be integrated into living with cancer? Satisfaction with a situation like cancer. Oh boy.

Having Multiple Myeloma is a serious situation. It is cancer. It requires patience, persistence, and significant mental and physical effort. Having cancer requires that I WORK at staying alive which crazy as it may seem was something that I once took for granted. It is a 24/7, 365-day effort and that is if I am lucky enough to survive 365. It is something that brings no guarantees that all or even any of my efforts will result in a comfortable and rewarding lifestyle.

Living with MM, requires a willingness to be flexible enough to postpone, cancel or significantly adjust plans that were in place because more important visits to the hospital for treatments and infusions are necessary and pressing. It requires a constant re-evaluation of expectations for what life will look like moving forward. There is also the constant presence of knowing that there are only so many new and different drug protocol “arrows in the quiver” that I carry to fight cancer and survive. Eventually, we all know what happens.

And I have not even begun to integrate health insurance costs and coverage concerns that come with having and living with cancer.

Then there are the non-cancer related concerns we all have regarding non-cancer issues like relationships, children, or jobs or an incredibly old car that is pushing 200,000 miles and needs to be replaced. I am just scratching the surface of the trials and tribulation that are routine in this game of life.


Happy? Really? How can anyone be satisfied with that kind of situation? Who am I kidding?

I mean looked at it this way – ABBA stopped touring about 40 years ago!

Oh, it is so easy to be un-happy. It is so easy to be whiny and to complain. It is so easy to feel sorry for myself and to sit on the pity-pot for days on end because I have Multiple Myeloma. It is so easy to be dark and morose. It is so easy to be full of fear and nasty, sullen, difficult, and ornery and …. you get the picture.

Who wants that? I do not.


Last month I celebrated the Colorado Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup (see I was able to get an Avs mention in a cancer column two months in a row) and it was terrific. This morning I had coffee with my wife on our little porch and that was great. My wife and I got to host a BBQ dinner for friends yesterday and the conversation was lively, interesting, and very satisfying. This past month I finally finished a book that I started reading about 35 years ago (and its only four hundred pages long – and not worth it). I saw three good movies on TV (the afore mentioned ABBA film, a documentary on Mr. Warmth, Don Rickles and a Danish film called Another Round)). My son and I went around and around on a telephone call the other day about the value of ham sandwiches. Since the last column, I played several rounds of golf with friends, and I did not lose too many golf balls. The summer weather arrived in Laramie (yes, we do get summer at 7300 ft in elevation), and it has been glorious. Yesterday I bought a jelly filled donut - delicious.

I could go on, but you get the message. Consider this, the longest paragraph in this post is the one about HAPPY and I cut it short.

HAPPY is possible and plentiful and there for my taking whenever I become aware enough to recognize its presence.

It is tough but it is do-able.

And I will keep trying.


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