“What is multiple myeloma?” Those were my words after the doctor reviewed my lab results during a routine exam in 2008. A 48-year-old biology teacher and volleyball coach, I had always been healthy, never been in the hospital, and I had no clue I was sick.
My oncologist started treating me aggressively with chemotherapy twice a week but I still taught every day. After four months, I came down with my first case of pneumonia. Two days later it developed into acute respiratory syndrome, and I was placed into an induced coma. They tried plasmapheresis, a process in which the liquid in the blood is separated from the cells, and my vital signs began to stabilize. After learning how to walk and eat again, I was out of the hospital in two weeks.
Later that summer, with continued treatment, my cancer levels all of a sudden plummeted more than 90 percent. I continued weekly chemotherapy treatments for over six years. The battle was easy knowing I was given the chance to watch my daughters graduate both high school and college. I even walked one down the aisle at her wedding.
Last spring when my body started showing resistance to the therapies, I decided to have a stem cell transplant. I underwent that procedure in November 2015 and my cancer levels dropped from over 60 percent in my bone marrow to less than 1 percent. I am still physically recovering but am feeling like the cancer has released its hold on me.