Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (WM)
Kennesaw, GA United States
In the fall of 2002, I had a missed call and a “call me when you’re out of class” text from my Dad. I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia when I heard, “Honey, I have cancer. Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (WM).” So, I took a deep breath and asked, “Okay, so what’s next? Surgery? Radiation? Chemo?” “Nothing, we wait until it gets bad enough for treatment.”
I didn’t quite understand because he was only finally diagnosed after passing out in a Barnes and Noble, which seemed bad enough to me. But he explained that while the cancer isn’t curable, it was maintainable with some drugs, but ones you can’t have too many of. So, you wait until the symptoms, immunoglobin numbers, and blood thickness reach a combined threshold, then knock it back with chemo for as long as it lasts. The average life expectancy was five to seven years.
In 2003, Dad moved to Athens and joined Team In Training (TNT). Even 20 years ago, he was the oldest in the bunch! But he ran his TNT marathon in Nashville in the spring of 2004. He coached a Virginia Beach half marathon and was an Honored Hero too.
His first round of chemo was in March 2005. The closest doctor that knew a thing or two about this rare non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) ― only about 1,500 cases are diagnosed a year ― was an hour away. He was in a phase 3 clinical trial and trying a three-drug cocktail that the doctors thought showed promise. That night he let it slip that when he got home, he climbed on the roof to fix his satellite dish by himself. That’s the kind of stubbornness this man has!
In the early years, he was going through chemo for about six months every two to three years. In 2018, after his last round of chemo, they harvested his stem cells hoping to use them the next time his numbers got bad, except they haven’t gotten bad enough yet. He’s had a few skin cancers and a vocal cord cancer since then, but just this December he was given another, “Call if anything changes. If not, I’ll see you in six months.”
Turning the big 4-0 can be a big deal. I decided I wanted to make it meaningful, to give back. As luck would have it, my birthday is January 6, and there just so happens to be a crazy challenge in my happiest place on earth. There’s no other way I could even dream about run-walking 48.6 miles without the Disney magic, without the support my new TNT family has given me, and without the purpose to keep funding the research that’s made it possible for Dad to be joining me for the 5K. WM’s average life expectancy is now closer to 15 years. LLS’s unyielding commitment to research and cures has made that possible. The only thing that might get me through the last six miles of my first marathon is knowing he will be there on the other side of the finish line. I’m just so lucky I get to continue to make him proud.
Written by daughter