As part of the continuing series about inspirational multiple myeloma patients, I would like to introduce you to Nick van Dyk from Los Angeles.
Over the past year or so, Nick and I have become close friends. Last year, Nick wrote a three part essay, Living WITHOUT Multiple Myeloma, about his experiences with multiple myeloma and posted it on this site. He also wrote an extensive rebuttle, arguing against the more conservative Mayo Clinic therapy approach, called Arkansas Rebuttal, Part One, Two and Three. (Obviously Nick likes to write in “three’s.” I love this guy… He writes more detailed, longer posts than even I do!) Like me, Nick blogs on a regular basis. He is one of the “young myeloma warriors,” working with docs in Little Rock, Arkansas on an aggressive treatment plan, called Total Therapy, designed not just to control myeloma, but to eradicate it–to cure it. Here is a time line about Nick’s myeloma journey from the first page of Nick’s Myeloma Blog:
Late 2008 through mid February 2009 – Diagnosis, discussion of treatment options, and the decision to go to Arkansas for treatment
Late February 2009 – treatment begins: first round of chemo
March 2009 – the infamous broken back, dilaudid nightmare
April 5th 2009 – first transplant
May 24th 2009 – second transplant
July 15th 2009 – consolidation chemo
Shortly thereafter, remission achieved
September 2009 onward — maintenance therapy continuing for the next 28 months
Whew! That’s a lot for any of us to endure. Yet Nick is steadfast in his belief he has made the right choice—to aggressively attack his cancer head-on and try for the ever elusive cure.
I’m not sure what has created our close, yet unlikely bond. True, we are both relatively young to be sadled with this type of cancer—Nick in his mid-forties and me my early fifties. Both of us were in relatively good health prior to our unexpected affliction. Yet we couldn’t possibly have pursued more divergent therapy goals.
Early on, my wife, Pattie, and I chose a very conservative therapy path. I was fortunate my myeloma responded so quickly and deeply to a then experimental, now more standard combination of Revlimid and dexamethasone. Working closely with docs at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, we made the decision to delay my stem cell transplant (SCT) for as long as possible. The plan was to use Revlimid as long as it worked (still working—albeit a bit less effectively than years ago). I would then try Velcade and whatever other new drugs or drug combinations became available. A SCT would be my last/best bullet after all other options were exhausted.
On the other hand, Nick chose the opposite approach. I wrote this description about Total Therapy in the updated version of my first book, Living with Multiple Myeloma:
I have since learned that the Myeloma Institute pioneered a treatment regimen called Total Therapy. This controversial approach throws everything but the kitchen sink at newly diagnosed myeloma patients—cocktails of three, four and five drugs before and after tandem stem cell transplants. Docs there are getting some great, long term results, especially among younger, low risk patients. Some are even using the word ―cure. But this treatment option is not for the faint of heart! It can be a hard, long road—up to five years of aggressive therapy. It can also be expensive—and some insurance plans won’t cover it because it is considered experimental or out of network. Despite the risks, newly diagnosed patients may want to research Total Therapy.
Calm down, Nick! After reading this, I’m sure he is getting his key-board ready for a fast and pointed rebuttal. You see, in Nick’s mind, there is nothing unusual or controversial about Total Therapy, or the excellent care he has received from the Myeloma Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. I don’t disagree! But remember, I am writing from a conservative, mid western approach. Nick is west coast and LA—I am Wisconsin and Minnesota and be careful and cautious. Ironically, in many ways we are actually just the opposite. Nick is a political conservative. I am a normally “go for it all” social liberal. Which brings me to my point: Unlike today’s politicians who rarely agree, Nick and I have found a way to try and understand each other’s point of view. To respectfully agree to disagree.
We have chosen completely different therapy paths. Yet despite a few hick-ups, both of us are doing well today.
So why do I consider Nick to be such an inspirational multiple myeloma patient? Because of what he has done and what he represents. Not satisfied with the hope multiple myeloma may someday become a “chronic” disease—not willing to wait and watch and wonder and worry—Nick has bravely chosen to attack his cancer with everything known to man. On top of that, Nick then chose to share his journey with the rest of us by writing in great detail on his Nick’s Myeloma Blog—whether he is feeling up or down, good or bad.
Thanks, Nick, for sharing your battle against mulitple myeloma with all of us—and for trumpeting the potential (my word!) benefits of Total Therapy for all newly diagnosed patients to hear!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat