I had the pleasure of listening to a hematological specialist, Dr. Carlos Franco, last evening after I spoke in Atlanta.
Dr. Franco shared a number of interesting observations in a way I hadn’t heard before. For example, he explained that multiple myeloma is similar to many other hematological malignancies, which presents themselves in a number of different ways–making their behavior much harder to predict than those of most solid tumor type cancers.
This is important information for patients and caregivers who don’t understand why one person–sitting next to them in the doctor’s office–has a lot of bone pain, while they don’t. Or why one patient has lots of protein in their blood, while another’s myeloma can only be measured in the urine. Or unfortunately, why one patient dies in two years, while someone else lives twelve years and counting.
Having cancer is never fair. But this is especially true with multiple myeloma. Each myeloma patient’s cancer presents itself differently. Making matters more complicated, each patient also tends to respond to the same therapy differently–and over far different periods of time.
Dr. Franco’s enthusiasm with treating multiple myeloma patients was uplifting. He shared stories from his 26 years of treating patients, starting with melphalan and prednisone, then moving on to using early bone marrow transplants, on to updated stem cell transplants where stem cells are mobilized in the blood and removed that way, the introduction of thalidomide and now, newer novelty therapy agents like Revlimid and Velcade.
I could tell Dr. Franco was extremely optimistic about our future. As he explained, his options went from almost none back then, to a half dozen different combinations today.
The fact Dr. Franco didn’t talk about a cure will disappoint a lot of my readers. Sorry Thomas in Germany. Sorry Geoff in Wisconsin. Two examples of survivors who aren’t satisfied with being treated chronically. THEY WANT A CURE!
We all do, guys! But I wasn’t disappointed. I was inspired.
And speaking of inspired, I got the feeling a number of the patients and caregivers who attended heard my message about the importance of raising myeloma awareness. Not so much to help raise money–that’s important, too. But to help physicians and nurses consider the possibility that a person’s back or rib pain just might be multiple myeloma, even if they are young–or their blood work looks ok.
More than one myeloma survivor I spoke with last night had their cancer misdiagnosed. And that doesn’t include me! I was misdiagnosed twice.
During the Q &A portion of the program, several attendees asked for specific ways they–and specialists like Dr. Franco–can start helping raise myeloma awareness among health care professionals.
It was touching others agreed with me about this important issue. This won’t be the last time I speak or write about it!
For now, I’m back home. Tired, but determined. Time to head-off to my next radiation appointment. So determined is good, right?
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat