January 18

FINDING THE PONY: Now there’s no ‘we’ in team, and I’m mad

Jim Arnold

Now I’m mad. I’m not irked. I’m not upset. I’m Peter Finch in “Network” mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-this-anymore mad. Except that I am going to take it. I have no choice, and that makes me mad.

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Peter Finch won an Academy Award as best actor in the 1976 MGM-United Artist movie, "Network." The movie is known for Finch's most memorable line: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

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My multiple myeloma treatment has reached a crossroads. What we’ve been doing seems to be working, yet my oncologist wants me to consider a stem-cell transplant, which, among other things, increases the chances of keeping the cancer in remission. Since the disease is incurable, it also buys some time while research continues and new drugs are developed.

Well, who wouldn’t want to sign up for that? The transplant involves the harvesting (their word choice, not mine) of some of my own healthy stem cells from my blood. The stem cells then are frozen and put back after I’ve received massive doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation to destroy the cancerous cells.

The recuperation period can be months, and infection is a huge concern, especially in the beginning when it seems the patient (their word choice, not mine) needs to be isolated.

One of the things I’ve earned about multiple myeloma is that, more than most other types of cancers, each person’s response to the disease and to treatment tends to be theirs alone.

This is why my oncologist here set up and appointment for Sheri and me with one of the specialists at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The appointment is just around the corner, and we have a list of questions we want answered.

Except, now there is no “we.” Sheri has picked up a case of the flu, and there’s simply no way she would be able to make the trip. Also, much of the medication I am taking as part of my treatment is actually designed to prevent infections. It can be a serious problem, so Sheri is actually staying with a friend until she gets better.

This isn’t about making the trip alone, because I know we have friends who will be more than happy to help. This is about “one more thing.” They say God won’t give you more than you can handle. My heart believes that, but my mouth is getting a bit chippy and wants to yell, “Enough!”

So I get mad, and so what? I can’t even throw open a window and yell out “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.” Sheri has winter-proofed all the windows, and I’m not about to undo all her work just so I can throw a hissyfit.

Besides, we already know that “enough” isn’t my call. If having, not only cancer, but a cancer virtually no one has ever heard of (though I’d like to think I’ve changed that some); one that only about 100,000 people in the entire country have; going through the Christmas holidays with no electricity, no heat, no running water isn’t enough, well, let me just take a minute to put on my big boy pants so we can continue our journey.

Obviously, fear has slithered its way back onto the scene; my (over) reaction tells me that. The transplant is such a game changer, do it or not, and to have to even discuss it without Sheri right there as my second pair of ears is disconcerting at the very least.

Canceling the appointment might have been an option, but everyone involved said “NO!” so fast, it never made it past the stupid idea stage. Nah. We gotta get this show on the road, and the next phase begins with discussing the pros and cons of a stem cell transplant.

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