Thanksgiving is all about family and friendships. I have made some amazing friends during my myeloma journey. Some I’ve never met. We’ve simply emailed regularly for years.
Gary Shankland and I have been exchanging emails for three or four years. His wife, Jeanie, has battled an aggressive type of myeloma all this time. The couple lives in rural Nebraska. Their drive to see a medical oncologist was well over an hour. And if I recall, it took five or six hours to get to Mayo Clinic to see a specialist.
Gary is a Nebraska football fan. We have fun taking Big 10 football. But this past year was a tough one for Jeanie. Gary thought he’d lost her several times, but she’d battle back. Unfortunately, the myeloma eventually won. Jeanie died on the 15th of this month.
She fought so hard. It was sad, but inspiring. You may think that today is an odd day for me to be posting an obituary. I disagree. Jeanie was only one of a half dozen good friends I lost to myeloma in 2015. The friends I’ve made along the way are brave–true heroes. They’re interesting, caring, engaging and selfless. They’re also fighting a battle that’s nearly impossible to win.
Jeanie and Gary epitomize this. A zest for life in the face of nearly impossible odds. Jeanie was only 51 when she passed away this month, leaving Gary to pull things together, continue working and watch over their three children. Myeloma patients aren’t the only heroes. Caregivers are often dealt just as difficult a hand. They’re heroes, too.
I’m thankful for so many things this year. No more God awful transplants; two in less than four months were more than enough. Hopefully the modified tandem strategy has worked. I would love to be in CR for a year or two. More time to spend with friends and so many researchers and specialists working hard trying to save our lives at ASH next weekend in Orlando. A holiday at home with my wife and rescued family of dogs and cats. Good weather; we’ll be floating in the pool later today, watching football and enjoying a classic Thanksgiving meal (I’m cooking).
A Christmas at home, hopefully feeling a lot better than I do today. Christmas lights, cheezy movies and a feeling of hope.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to help so many in the myeloma community. At a time of exciting and unsettling change, patient education is more important than ever. If I can help facilitate that, all the pain and discomfort I endure to help prop myself up for yet another year is well worth it.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the time I had with the friends I lost. I understand how hard it is, but hang in there, Gary. Rest in peace, Jeanie.
It isn’t always easy, but try to feel good and keep smiling. Happy Thanksgiving good friends-Pat