Dear Jack
Foundation

Erika M

Active LifeList Participant

On January 21, 2021, at the age of 28, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer affecting the plasma cells in my bone marrow. Unfortunately (and likely due to my age), the diagnosis took quite some time to land on. I suffered from intermittent and increasingly intense pain in my ribs, hips, chest, and back for about a year prior to my true decline.

At the height of the pandemic, like many of us, I was stuck at home. I attributed much of my pain to the change in lifestyle I experienced during this time. I tried everything to stop the pain, which was constant at this point. I began exercising more frequently, saw several doctors and specialists, changed my diet, adjusted my work set up and schedule, and started physical therapy. Nothing worked. In a matter of months, I became completely bedridden, needing help to do everything from cooking a meal to taking a shower. My budding career in digital marketing came to a sudden halt when I lost my job after no longer being able to sit upright. The brain fog, the fatigue, and most of all, the pain had completely taken over my life. When a blood test found anemia, further investigation took place. More blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy confirmed the myeloma was present and widespread.

By the time we discovered that multiple myeloma was the culprit, the lytic lesions in my bones were so severe that I needed surgery to place rods in both my sternum (fractured twice) and left humerus (preventative) and immediate and ongoing treatment with a bone-strengthening agent. Shortly following, I endured 10 rounds of radiation to my left humerus and both femurs plus 13+ rounds of chemotherapy in preparation for a stem cell transplant.

On July 1, 2021, I was given a high-dose round of chemotherapy in preparation for my stem cell transplant the following day. Two weeks in the hospital accounted for only the beginning of my recovery from the transplant, and it would be the rest of 2021 before i began to feel like myself again. 

I am blessed to say that I am currently in remission and have been deemed MRD- (meaning that per one million cells, zero myeloma cells can be detected). I have been taking high doses of pain medication to keep the pain at bay since my diagnosis in January 2021 but am happy to say I am working my way down to needing none at all, and weekly physical therapy sessions are helping me regain my strength. In January 2022, I will begin the two years of maintenance chemotherapy that will hopefully complete my treatment.

 

Erika’s LifeList:

  1. An adjustable, queen-sized bed

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