Back on the drugs

I'm resuming treatment for my myeloma after many years remission

Well, I’m back onto the chemo for my myeloma, after almost 6½ years remission.

I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed, but I’m not surprised. As myeloma is basically incurable — the best you can hope for is a long remission — I always knew it would be back. I have been very lucky. I haven’t had to take any drugs since October 2013. Some of my friends who went through treatment at the same time as me did not achieve the deep remission I had and have been on what is called ‘maintenance therapy’. This normally involves taking thalidomide or one of its substitutes or close relatives. Yes, that thalidomide; the one we all feared years ago. It turns out it is brilliant at killing tumours in the bone marrow of humans and dogs.

I am repeating the same programme I was on in 2012–2013 — dexamethasone, bortezomib and cyclophosphamide (CyBorD). Nine months of that with a bone marrow stem cell transplant (SCT) in the middle. It worked brilliantly last time, and we expect it will be effective again.

What am I looking forward to? My bone pain disappearing, having successful treatment, not being too miserably sick, meeting new and interesting people during my time at hospital, learning to inject myself with one of the drugs (yes, seriously) to take it at a more convenient time at home, and working on my dharma practice about happily accepting difficulties without wishing things were any different.

What am I not looking forward to? Having to go through the tedious process of harvesting bone marrow stem cells again, getting sick following the SCT and going into hospital for a few days until the inevitable fever abates, and having a month or more off work. It’s not terrible suffering, but I’d prefer to not have to do it. It’s not exactly fun.

I didn’t write about this the first time around because I didn’t want to be a miserable person pouring out my sad feelings on screen. I’m not like that generally and I didn’t want that to be all people knew of me. And I don’t like sympathy. I now know it’s unlikely to be a miserable experience, and I know I can be pretty objective about the whole experience. I promise I won’t talk about it much or make a bit deal about it because, frankly, it shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just a disease I’m taking some drugs for and having some medical procedures to treat. Lots of people do that every day, and many of them are a lot worse off than me.

I have a lot to be grateful for, and I am. I can go to work every day and stay active. I have people who love me, a warm dry place to live, food on the table, and pleasurable activities to occupy my spare time. What more does a man need?