Yesterday was a remarkable day. Why? Because I got to spend almost 2 hours one-on-one with a remarkable man–myeloma survivor, retired physician, fellow Myeloma Beacon columnist and family man, Arnold Goodman.
Arnie Goodman. The man who just underwent his third stem cell transplant in seven years; this time an allogeneic (donor) transplant. Arnie’s allo transplant was a last-ditch-effort to slow the onslaught of his vengefully aggressive multiple myeloma.
Transplant doctors don’t usually like to use allos as salvage therapy. But as I learned, Arnie can be a pretty persistent guy. Apparently he relentlessly wore his healthcare team down until they relented and agreed to allow him to undergo his allo.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back-up and let me set the scene. We met on the campus of the University of South Florida to iron-out the final details of an upcoming patient educational seminar being sponsored by Moffitt Cancer Center. It was being organized by my/our myeloma specialist, Dr. Melissa Alsina. Arnie had been the patient co-chair of the twice yearly event for the past several years. But anticipating a long rehabilitation, Arnie asked me to fill-in until he was back on his feet. And I’m happy to share he’s way ahead of schedule!
What I didn’t realize is that Arnie practiced medicine in the shadow of Moffitt Cancer Center’s BMT unit while he recovered for almost a month last August–the same unit where I underwent my auto stem cell transplant one year before.
He explained all of this after Dr. Alsina and her Organizational Manager, “wiz-kid” Joan Warren, left to get on with their busy day while I kept Arnie locked-up in a small third floor conference room for some serious Q and A.
Arnie may not get the publicity that yesterday’s featured hero, Don Wright, does. But he is every bit as inspirational to me. I’m telling you, this guy has used every anti-myeloma drug and therapy imaginable, along with a few I had never heard of: VTD-PACE, CyBorD, bendamustine, vorinostat and a half dozen others–and come-out smiling. This is one tough, ex-doc!
Now I’m sure I’m embarrassing him. That’s half the fun! But to see Arnie doing so well after many of his doctors had practically given up hope makes me feel almost giddy.
I did promise to keep most of our conversation confidential. A small, quiet guy, Arnie has a warm smile and sharp, analytical mind. This guy leaves nothing to chance!
Not that Arnie isn’t an open book. Simply type-in “Arnie Goodman” into the query bar at the top of any Myeloma Beacon page and start reading. The guy has an amazing story.
Arnie’s laid-back style is one of the most endearing things about him. He’s so easy to talk to, never using his experience as a physician to try and impress anyone.
We talked about so many things. His wife and kids. His medical practice. The ups-and-downs of living with cancer over the years. And the things we have in common. Our ages are similar; he’s 54 and I’m 56. Arnie was diagnosed seven years ago, only a year before me. He started-out with a stem cell transplant and I chose to wait, transplanting four years later. Yet we have ended-up in pretty much the same place. So much so that I asked him a lot of questions about his allo, anticipating what to do next as I travel along my bumpy, roller coaster-like treatment journey.
Apparently, Arnie was close to the end when the hail Mary treatment of VTD-PACE–basically the same intense treatment our good friend, John Knighten, is undergoing right now in preparation for his tandem auto/allo transplants–surprised his doctors and knocked his myeloma back enough to allow them to proceed with his transplant.
I asked Arnie if he had considered a donor transplant before he was near what could have been the end. “I considered it.” He said. “But when you weight a 10-15% chance of dying against a 10-15% chance that the procedure will be wildly successful, it isn’t something I was ready to do.”
And when I asked him if I should consider undergoing a preemptive allo, before things got that bad, his response was quick and decisive. “Oh no!” he exclaimed. “Velcade is still working for you. And then there’s Kyprolis, pomalidomide and then a combination of the two. You have lots of options left.”
I won’t drag this on. I have already written more about him than I anticipated when we first sat down. I didn’t know him very well before we sat down for our meeting. Now I feel like we will be life-long friends.
I know spending time with this guy has inspired me to do everything I can to try and stay alive for as long as humanly possible. Now that’s remarkable! What an unexpected gift.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat