May 24, 2019
How do you decide when to start treatment?
Do you wait until you experience symptoms from the cancer? For multiple myeloma, these could potentially include renal failure, bone lesions or anemia (including hyper hemolytic anemia — which nearly killed me in March 2012).
Or, do you start treatment before the symptoms manifest, when your body is healthy to go through chemotherapy?
That’s the position we find ourselves in. I asked Dr. Tiedemann point-blank what he would do if he were in my position. His response, “I really can’t say definitively. I can make a case either way.” My myeloma has a personality and a mind of its own. After it declared itself and made its grand comeback, it has started to behave and the numbers have remained steady over the past six weeks. Treatment or no treatment? Some markers lean toward starting treatment immediately; other markers suggest a “watch and wait” approach. We talked through the options with Dr. Tiedemann until we came to an agreement that we were all comfortable with.
The plan is for me to get a skeletal x-ray immediately to rule out any bone lesions, get bloodwork every two weeks to monitor any significant drop in hemoglobin and pay attention to the M-protein numbers. And we have a scheduled appointment with the doctor in 4 weeks to revisit the question of treatment date, the sweet spot that is neither too early nor too late.
I am happy with this development. Starting treatment for myeloma now could impact the regimen that I am currently on for breast cancer as my body would be immuno-compromised. I also see this as an unexpected blessing of time. I had fully expected when I went for my appointment today that Dr. Tiedemann would want me to start treatment immediately. Now I have bought myself potentially another 4 weeks (maybe longer) depending on how my impish, unpredicatable and mercurial myeloma behaves. 4 weeks of time where I had freed myself of all obligations. 4 weeks of no commitments. 4 weeks of bonus time. I am beside myself as I think of all the things I can do during this time.
Perhaps I can use this time for delicious coffee dates with friends. Perhaps I can learn a fun new skill like salsa dancing. Maybe a trip to Edmonton and Calgary to meet favourite cousins is in the offing. I am excited about a project of decluttering our home from top to bottom. Or getting a personal trainer for the first time in my life. Or working on another collaborative recording of devotional music. I am thinking about a day of working in the garden, planting and pruning, Or I could binge-watch Game of Thrones, as I seem to be the only one in the universe who hasn’t watched this show. I plan to read a lot, go to baseball games with Nagib and try new Instant Pot recipes. The possibilities are endless and entirely exhilarating!
Out of curiosity, what would you do if you had a full month at your disposal? How would you spend your time and energy?
There was a book on the table outside The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s store that winked at me. It was called, “14,000 Things To Be Happy About.”
I immediately picked it up and started leafing through it. The book was written by Barbara Ann Kipfer over a 40 year period, starting when she was in Grade 6. Some of the entries created wonderful images for me (the sound of an ice cream truck), some made me reminisce (the smell of freshly baked bread) and some I could not relate to (mugs of soup).
So I started to think about all the things that make me happy – the little things, the big things and everything in between. Within minutes, I exploded with 10 things that make me smile:
- St. Petes/Clearwater in Florida makes my belly-button happy. There’s something so whole and healing when I step into its warmth. My heart, my body and my spirit feel connected when I walk on the beach, feel the sand in my toes and marvel at the emerging sunset. These moments are as close to heaven as I can imagine.
- Saturday morning dates with Nagib. This is my all time favourite weekly activity and a sacred time for the both of us. It is time that we use to reconnect, talk, share, eat, make plans, share perspectives, argue, agree, discuss life. Each Saturday, we try out a new breakfast haunt courtesy of Yelp.
- I am the Queen of Gadgets, except I don’t always know what to do with the new toy after I buy it. My Instant Pot is an exception. Every day, I enthusiastically tackle it and try a new dish – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – but it gives me a sense of achievement when I can start cooking, and have something edible at the table in 30 minutes, without breaking a sweat.
- Good books and podcasts sustain me. In the past month, I have been transported into the world of princes and princesses, sword fights and giants. I have slipped into the mystery of Arabia, dived into questions around why the world has turned its back on migrants, explored the topics of perception and misconception and learnt the fascinating story of Instagram.
- Waking up each morning at 4 am to meditate. Just magical!
- Connecting with Shayne, Sabrina and Afzal on WhatsApp. Waking up to delicious messages and voicenotes from them almost every day. Being so connected with them and being part of their lives, in spite of being a continent away.
- Stephen Colbert makes me happy. He is my guilty pleasure and I am addicted to his late night show. I love how he confronts hypocrisy; how he helps to make sense of the craziness in the world and how he does all this with humour, sarcasm and an elegant grace. One of my bucket list items is to see him live in New York.
- Technology thrills me, even though I have a long way to go to become technologically savvy. My laptop, iPhone, wireless speakers, wireless phone charger and Fitbit are my favourite tools at the moment.
- Music takes me to new heights. Shayne bought me a one-year subscription to Spotify and now I have all this incredible music at my fingertips to love and explore. I listen to old favourites that move me; to the familiar sounds of Sade, the Beatles and Michael Buble; to the classical flamenco guitar sounds of Ottmar Liebert. As I become more adventurous, I am downloading music for sleep and working out.
- Spending time with my mom makes my heart happy. My mom is the centre of our universe and I revel in the time I have to learn from her, to cook with her, to be around her energy, to delve into her wisdom. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have time with her.
And as I finish this post, I can easily think of at least 10 more things that make me happy today. That’s because gratitude begets gratitude. And when we choose the path of gratitude, in spite of difficulties and challenges, the gratitude meter inevitably expands and there is even more to celebrate in life, starting with the blessing of being alive.