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  • Writer's pictureMark Pajak

House Cleaning

January 15, 2022 marks the seventh anniversary of my Multiple Myeloma (MM) diagnosis. There are times where I can barely remember what life looked like before that diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis has a way of changing the templates used in trying to manage my life. What once was, is no longer. New thoughts and ideas had to be incorporated/used for the purpose of moving forward. In examining these past 7 years, I wanted to share some of the considerations that I have adopted in moving beyond that initial diagnosis. This is sort of a “house cleaning” inventory to start off year number eight.

Acceptance of reality is critically important. And, as my son has said on numerous occasions about many different situations, “you’ve got to stop hate‘n about things” and move forward.

Remember to laugh; being sad, angry or down-right disappointed about having cancer comes easily and without much prompting. I have to remember to laugh.

Do not anticipate that “things” will get either better or worse; i.e. stop judging each and every situation. It is easier to move forward letting go of the need to analyze or judge each and every circumstance that presents itself.

Realize that it is my cancer; nobody else’s; everything previously written about MM does not include my exact situation; I know my situation better than anyone else.

When in doubt, pray; to whom and how is my choice.

Answers to the “why” questions are less important than figuring out what to do about the situation that resulted in asking the “why” questions. Stop asking the “why” questions.

Saying “It’s so good to see you” is probably a more honest way to start a conversation with a cancer “warrior” than saying something like “oh, you look so good” or “you look great.”

Stay away from “friends” who want to know when you are going to die; stay away from stories about gloom and doom; stay away from the madness that accompanies most media messages these days.

Having cancer does not mean I have nothing to offer to others or that I have to stop living and enjoying my life. Having cancer has made it easier for me to reach out to others in need. It feels so good to contribute.

Having cancer/MM does not make me special or heroic. Having cancer is no different than my being left-handed and is now just another piece of my life.

Conversations about my/your GI system, bowel movements and other such intimate going-ons are routine and in some cases enlightening. However, it is critically important that such conversations are had with those that really want to know.

Steroids are something else. On the day that I take steroids I feel like Hercules. About 36 hours later, Hercules has most certainly left the building.

Waiting for those blood numbers to come back from the lab is tough.

When I am feeling tired and blue, I often think of what my folks told us kids about complaining. You have probably heard/read this before but remembering this has helped me tremendously: If I took all my troubles and put them on a big pile with everyone else’s troubles on the same pile and then were given a choice to pick out the troubles I was going to live with, most likely I would pick the ones I put on the pile.

Nurses who work in cancer hospitals or with cancer patients are all saints; there is no questioning that statement; Also, a spouse, caregiver or partner who is sticking by your side cannot be thanked enough so never stop thanking.

Having Multiple Myeloma has brought me the opportunity for gaining wisdom and understanding. It took me a while to recognize this gift. I would never recommend a cancer journey for anyone, however, I have benefitted from the experience

Kindness. Kindness. Kindness.

Take some time to thank all of those who are helping us that we have never met. The researchers in labs, pharmacists, truck drivers and pilots who move medicines across the country, snow-plow drivers who clear the roads so the medicine can get to the right house at the right time (especially important in Wyoming). All are “pulling on the rope at the same time” for our benefit. Humbling for sure.

Every day is a gift. Every sunrise and sunset are special.

Relationships are special. Having MM made this abundantly clear to me. The fact that it took me so long to truly understand the importance of relationships marks me as someone who at times can be pretty, pretty, pretty thick-skulled.

I am going to die. Nobody knows for sure as to when or how that will happen.

Miracles do happen.

Seven years or two years, it really does not matter; the journey of life is full of twists and turns and unknowns and…..


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