2006 … Purim Eve … 8:05AM. The doctor calls … he says they found “lesions” on my shoulder. It was then I was told I had Multiple Myeloma. I had never heard of it but it didn’t sound good. My doctor said, “Well … it’s a leukemia type disease”.
I remember the strange sensation of warm water being poured over my head (I think I was about to pass out). I don’t remember who I told, or how I told them, it was all so surreal … cancer. Multiple Myeloma has 3 stages and I was in the 3rd one … the last one. It had eaten through the back of my skull … was in my upper left arm (later my right), had fractured my clavicle and was found in my femur.
When this happens everything goes through your mind. Everything. It was decided that I would start with a clinical trial (injecting myself with interleukin 2). When the cancer decreased I was to have a stem cell transplant (using my own stem cells).
I had to process this as best as I could. I was glad it was spring so I could walk. I process best when walking. It was around that time my sister Michelle (a doctor) gave me a 2 DVD set called “The Soul of Healing” by Deepak Chopra. Chopra’s view (and now mine) is one of wholeness – using everything … medicine … nutrition … things spiritual … everything … to see yourself as healthy – at least as much as possible.
We all know “shalom” means peace but the word goes beyond that. It’s wholeness … being complete … Holy, if you will. I was put on Thalidomide and steroids … terrifying. All I could think of were the horrible deformities of the children I had seen from the late 50’s and 60’s. It did, however, work. Later I was put on a drug that originated at the Technion in Haifa, only about 15 miles south from the Kibbutz I worked on as a kid, Gesher Haziv.
The day I was scheduled for my stem cell transplant (the 1st of 2) my other sister, Joanna, put a rubber band on my left wrist and told me to snap the band every time I was thinking negatively for too long. After doing this for a while, I realized how negatively I had programmed myself. It was very effective.
I was at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center for 18 days and decided I would view myself as a visitor, not a patient, and would do as Chopra said and see myself as healthy. So I never wore hospital cloths (wore jeans and a tee shirt). If someone came in, I would sit at the edge of the bed (not lie down). I would be a visitor, not a patient. Once a day I would put on a mask and walk the top floor of the hospital for 45 minutes to an hour. That was a big plus.
My life expectancy when diagnosed in 2006 was two and a half years. It has now been 13. I tell everyone the same thing … over and over … the hospital did all that work yet still couldn’t cure my golf game!
We all have our cancers … some are financial … some the end of a relationship … some the death of a loved one … but we all face things, our cancers if you will. All I can say is don’t give up! As Churchill said, “Never give in … never, never, never!” It’s not always easy and often I have to coach myself, but you must fight.
Sometimes winter can seem never ending (at least up here in New Hampshire), so cold … so dark … and we just can’t see spring around the corner. I guess when things get tough, it’s time to snap that rubber band.