A Day in the Life of Anthony Everett - A Myeloma Patient and Member of the Myeloma Canada Board of Directors, Representing British Columbia
My journey with Multiple Myeloma likely began a few years before I even heard the word or knew it was a cancer of the plasma cells. Being an active guy in my mid-forties I just figured that back pain was something to live with and had been doing so for several years.
In late spring of 2014, I began to suffer from debilitating back pain that was keeping me from getting out of bed. After many trips to physio, acupuncture and massage therapists my wife, Paulina encouraged me to go to my doctor. My doctor mentioned the possibility of myeloma after seeing my first X-rays. I'll always be grateful for how quickly follow-up tests were done that resulted in my being flown via air ambulance to the spine unit at Vancouver General Hospital, accompanied by a very pregnant Paulina. One of the advantages of living in a relatively small community is how quickly things begin to happen when needed!
It was a surprise to know I had multiple bone tumors including a complete "blow out" at my 5th lumbar vertebra that was creating the real possibility of paralysis. An official diagnosis of multiple myeloma and the cause of my back pain took a few weeks. Major surgery followed, then recovery, and finally the long process of tackling the complicated cancer called multiple myeloma.
I had been part of a study (MCRN 001) that combined busulfan and melphalan as conditioning regimen for autologous stem cell transplantation with bortezomib based induction followed by lenalidomide maintenance. Unfortunately I was intolerant to the maintenance treatment and I chose to discontinue it for the time being knowing that I could relapse sooner rather than later. In consultation with my physician, Dr. Heather Sutherland (who is truly amazing), I understand the risks of not continuing treatment but I am comfortable with the lifestyle choice I am making. I am feeling better, more clear-headed and energetic than I have for years.
Like many other patients I have spoken with or read about, I have learned to live with the effects of various drug therapies. I am - more than ever - working on remaining positive, living healthy, being active, walking my dog, and doing everything in my power to spend time with Paulina and our two-year-old daughter, Olivia. This past weekend I competed in a multi-sport winter event as part of a team and skated the 5km race portion. My wife is determined that the two of us will compete in a team triathlon this summer and I am doing the 90km bike ride.
For the first time in my life I am truly living in the moment and I am grateful for the understanding, compassion, support and encouragement I have from all those that live with myeloma. It took many, many months to recognize the true nature of the situation I found myself and in many ways, I am on a daily journey of looking at life just a little bit differently. Up to now I have resisted telling my story and using the term "journey" because I think so many other people have suffered and have challenges far exceeding my own. It feels self-indulgent to be talking about how I am feeling and telling others about how this cancer has impacted my life.
With the encouragement of my wonderful wife, family, extended family and friends I now know that we are all on a journey and this just happens to be the path I must walk along with many others who suffer with myeloma. I have long believed service to others is part of my life's purpose and I hope telling my story helps in a small way. As the late Muhammad Ali said, "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." I hope to help bring awareness to myeloma through my board experience and have recently been honoured with a position on Myeloma Canada's Board of Directors. Life is truly amazing; in a little under three years I have gone from never having heard the word myeloma to being a part of a wonderful organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of the Canadian myeloma community and improving the quality of life of myeloma patients, their caregivers and families.
I close by saying that having multiple myeloma is not easy but it has changed my life in many positive ways. I would never feel this way without the love and support of Paulina and coming up on our five-year anniversary I know that having myeloma is a bump in life's road that has strengthen our faith in each other and our joy in having Olivia. I stand with all of you that have myeloma or support a patient who does. Remember to always keep grinding and try to find the positive in every day, don't give up and never quit!