February 22nd, 2017
At 81 years old, Harold Rogers has had quite a ride. For 30 years, the St. Mary’s, Georgia, resident was an air traffic controller and corporate jet pilot. But nothing prepared Harold for a diagnosis in early 2009 of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells inside bone marrow, which is considered incurable.
“I’d never heard of multiple myeloma. My primary care doctor said, ‘The good news is that it’s treatable. But it’s not curable,’” Harold says. “He then recommended I go to a cancer specialist.”
Harold opted to stay close to home and began chemotherapy in February 2009. When the treatment was over several months later, he was left with side effects that prompted him to get an evaluation at a different health care facility. That’s when he turned to Mayo Clinic. Read the rest of this entry »
January 30th, 2016
Most of us have known someone with cancer, either in our family or with a friend or an acquaintance. But cancer can be particularly cruel when it seems to target a specific family over and over again. For the Zepeda family of Miami, cancer has stricken a mother, her daughter, a number of other family members, and even the family dog.
Yadira Zepeda, a 67-year-old mother of four adult children, was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1991 and was told by her physician in Miami that she probably had two to four months to live. Not satisfied with what she heard and unwilling to give up after receiving that devastating news, at a friend’s recommendation she came to Mayo Clinic's Florida campus for the second opinion that has given her life and hope for the past 24 years.
“My Mayo physician for many years, Gerardo Colon-Otero, M.D., said at the time that while my condition was serious and that he couldn’t promise me a miracle, we would fight my disease with every available option, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and eventually with a bone marrow transplant which I received in 1994,” Yadira says. “While it’s been a long battle, including visits to Mayo every three months for many years, my condition has stabilized, and I’m still living my life, and I am able to enjoy my family long after I wasn’t supposed to be here.”
Yadira’s own battle with cancer took a back seat when in June 2008 her daughter Valeria was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia after unexplained bruises began appearing on her legs and arms. Based on her mother’s experience, Valeria went to Mayo Clinic and began receiving targeted chemotherapy for her disease. Read the rest of this entry »
September 11th, 2014
By Paul Scotti
When 69-year-old allergist and rheumatologist Mike Mass. M.D., was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in August 2013, he quickly realized that being the patient and trusting the advice of a fellow physician with expertise in a disease outside of his realm of expertise would be a challenge.
“I’ve always advocated open communications with my patients about their treatment options, as it’s important for the physician and patient to be on the same page,” says Dr. Mass. “Although I’m not a cancer expert, I know enough about the disease to ask lots of questions of my own oncologist on the best treatment options available. It was hard balancing the need to express my opinions without impeding my physician’s own expert medical judgment.”
Dr. Mass was in private practice in the Jacksonville, Florida, area for more than 30 years before going part-time and joining an allergy group practice in 2008. That’s where he worked until his diagnosis in 2013, when he finally decided to retire from practicing medicine. He had known he was at a greater risk for contracting multiple myeloma for many years because of a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance , or MGUS, which he was diagnosed with decades ago. MGUS is a condition in which an abnormal protein (M protein) is found in the blood. That increases the risk of developing multiple myeloma at some point in the patient’s life. Dr. Mass had no symptoms but found out several years ago after some blood work that his M protein levels were at the point where he now had “smoldering myeloma,” an early phase of this cancer condition. Read the rest of this entry »
June 20th, 2014
By Paul Scotti
Being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a serious blood cancer, is difficult enough to accept. But being told that you also have a rare hematologic condition called amyloidosis — a disorder that could prevent you from receiving the bone marrow transplant necessary to combat your myeloma — could put anyone’s strength to the test.
Such was the case for 67-year-old Kendall Schwindt of Sun City, Florida, a retiree who spent 26 years with Walmart and who has remained active playing golf and riding his motorcycle. After experiencing a sudden illness in March 2013 while visiting his son, Schwindt knew something wasn’t right. After visiting his family doctor, he was told he had a very high creatinine level in his blood and was sent to a local nephrologist for a kidney biopsy.
His diagnosis — multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in bone marrow. Plasma cells normally make proteins called antibodies to help the body fight infections. But that wasn’t only devastating news Schwindt would receive. Read the rest of this entry »
November 8th, 2013
Judy Phillips found hope when hope was running out thanks to a physician willing to try new (and old) treatments, a team of "wonderful nurses," and the "steadfast support and optimism" of her husband.
Written by Judy Phillips
I am a seven-year survivor of multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the bone marrow. Myeloma is a relatively rare cancer, so many people who are diagnosed with it have no idea what they are being told they have. I had heard of it but didn’t remember what it was exactly. All I knew was that it was something terrible, and I didn’t want it. My husband and I promptly burst into tears when we heard the diagnosis in the doctor’s office.
It was several weeks before I could stop crying. Every time I thought about the fact that I was now a cancer patient a fresh round of tears came into my eyes. Finally, when I got tired of crying -- and my husband begged me to stop -- I started focusing on what I could do to eliminate this scourge from my life. Although my first doctor, a hematologist/oncologist in Virginia, told me I had three to five years to live, I refused to believe this. I was determined to get cured. To this end, I accepted treatment with an aggressive drug that had just been approved by the FDA.
Unfortunately, I was not able to tolerate the new drug -- I experienced excruciatingly painful peripheral neuropathy in my legs, making it difficult for me to even get off the couch. I was tried on another new drug but continued to have intolerable side effects. I could tell by the look on my doctor’s face that he was running out of ideas.
July 3rd, 2013
During a hospitalization for pneumonia more than 20 years ago in her hometown of Barrington, IL, Ilse Hein received very frightening news: she had multiple myeloma. Initially she understood that she had a skin cancer (a melanoma), though she soon learned that multiple myeloma was actually very different: a complex cancer of the bone marrow.
Soon thereafter, encouraged by her local physician, Ms. Hein traveled the 5+ hours (drive time) to Rochester and spent a week at Mayo Clinic. There her diagnosis was confirmed and compounded by more bad news: the care team discovered that she also had an incurable non-alcoholic liver disease. One week later she underwent major surgery.
Subsequently Ms. Hein was assigned to Dr. Philip Greipp (hematologist) and Dr. Patrick Kamath (hepatologist). They became her guides during her cancer journey. Ms. Hein stated: “Both doctors explained the diseases in detail without instilling panic. They helped to ease my fear with their knowledge, empathy, kindness and concern, and openness. They worked together as a team, and that instills further trust and confidence. Receiving such excellent, custom tailored care and attention always makes me feel like I won the lottery.” Read the rest of this entry »
December 2nd, 2011
By Makala Arce
My name is Alfred “Bart” Howe and I am a very lucky guy. I was born 1938 in a small oilfield town in Oklahoma. Mary and I married in 1965 and have two married sons, a grandson and a granddaughter. Mary and I raised our family in Boulder, Colorado and have lived here for over 40 years. I like to think that my family has been, and is, the primary focus of my life. Prior to Amyloidosis, my personal hobbies included gardening, scuba diving, bicycling, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, hiking and climbing the 14,000 foot peaks of Colorado.
2001 - Multiple Myeloma
In Dec, 2001, Dr. Fleagle, of the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center (RMCC) diagnosed me with Multiple Myeloma, Phase 1. I was 63, and was in absolute shock. I got a speeding ticket on the way home. No one in our family had ever had cancer and I was, I thought, very healthy. I immediately started monthly IVs of Aredia, a biophosphonate, to strengthen my bones. I continued to work full time and continued all outdoor activities.
2003 - Amyloidosis
In Aug, 2003, I had extreme fatigue after climbing one of the harder 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado. I passed it off to getting a late start and being caught in a severe storm. In Oct, 2003, I went to Nepal for a long planned trek. During this trip I began to have extreme fatigue and had to stop the trek even though I was only at 11,000 feet. After returning to Colorado I continued to feel worse and immediately visited my oncologist, Dr Fleagle at RMCC. After much testing, a GI tract biopsy diagnosed Primary Amyloidosis (AL) in Dec, 2003.