But Pam didn’t make it to her next appointment. By the last week of June, she couldn’t get out of bed. All she could do was cry from excruciating pain. Her neighbor came to check on her, called Pam’s sister, and her brother who lived nearby came to take her to the hospital. Thanks to some pushing from her brother, Pam was admitted into UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s where they found 8 compression fractures in her back – caused by the myeloma. Dr. Abu saw Pam in the hospital and said she was getting progressively worse quickly so they needed to treat her quickly.
Pam started with concentrated radiation on her back. A medical transport vehicle would come every day to the hospital to take her to and from the radiation treatment for 2 weeks. When she was finally released from the hospital, she needed a caretaker. A friend of the family and practically an adopted grandson, Skyler, moved in and was the help she needed.
“I could hardly walk. I was on a lot of drugs for my pain. I didn’t have an appetite so I lost a lot of weight. And I was 5 inches shorter due to the compression fractures,” says Pam. “But I was determined to get off all those medicines and over time was able to do that. I attest my recovery to Skyler. I was so thankful he was willing to help me because my only other option was a care facility.”
In February 2019, Pam met with Dr. Muhamed Baljevic at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) to start the preliminary steps for a stem cell transplant. First, Pam received high-dose chemotherapy to kill the cells in her bone marrow, then she received new, healthy stem cells. She says, “February 20 was my new birthday, the day I received my stem cells.”
While the stem cell transplant was considered successful and Pam was feeling good, Dr. Abu saw something “off” in Pam’s proteins during a follow-up in February 2020 so she returned to see Dr. Baljevic. Following a PET scan and a bone biopsy, Pam started a new treatment regimen to “get any last myeloma cells which are good at hiding.” She’s currently within that regimen which includes multiple cycles of both infusion and oral medicines.
“I’m tired and I may have some minor side effects, but it’s all a piece of cake from what I went through with the pain earlier,” states Pam. “I’ve learned I can roll with anything.”
Pam also credits her faith and prayer partners for helping her get through the tough times. “On the days you cannot look in the mirror and tell yourself what’s good, then you have to have people who will help pull you out of the negative.”
Pam says it was important that she maintained her sense of humor, even though at times she knows she drove her family and others crazy. She adds, “I learned asking for help is not a bad thing. It may be difficult, but there are a lot of good people out there willing to help. Find a few dependable ones who can be your shining angels.” Pam is very thankful for her shining angels.
“I appreciate the great physicians and staff at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center because they show genuine concern and support for me. They always answer my questions or find someone who can. Everyone is positive and helpful – and not just with me. I see it with every patient.”
While multiple myeloma is not curable, Pam says her treatment is allowing her to live her life doing what she enjoys. Reading, digging in the dirt growing flowers, spending time with her family and friends, and going to work at Rosenthal Foods where she has worked since 1974. “Whatever is ahead, I am strong and I will deal with it as it comes. All through the grace of God.”