In 2008, I retired from teaching art, mostly because I was feeling tired all the time and didn’t want the program I was running to suffer because I couldn’t keep up. I figured it was old age. I was enjoying my first full year of retirement when I woke up with a backache. After two months of tests, in July 2010, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a treatable but not yet curable blood cancer in the plasma cells of the bone marrow.
Since 2010, I've gone through many treatments, including induction therapy, two kyphoplasty surgeries repairing four vertebrae, and two tandem autologous stem cell transplants. I relapsed in 2012 and have been in treatment since then, getting close to our favorite word…remission!
Art has been a strong influence in my life. I picked up watercolors more than 30 years ago. Painting has been very therapeutic for me; the sound of the water and the movement of the paint over the paper soothe me. I love to get lost in a watercolor and focus on the details; it takes me away from the aches and pains.
Through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), I have found a support group of wonderful people living with myeloma. We share our stories, our good and bad news. One of our founding members is a 99-year-old woman who we call our “cheerleader.” She has wonderful insights and encouraging words. Our group is supportive and lead by a warm, compassionate facilitator. I also enjoy volunteering with the LLS First Connect Program, talking with patients one on one and giving them information and encouragement.
Every myeloma patient I know hopes for a cure. In the mean time, many treatments have been developed since I have been diagnosed. Seven in the past year!