A diagnosis of multiple myeloma is life-altering. Get tips on learning how to manage your cancer.
For Beth Morgan, feeling tired and sluggish was not normal. An entrepreneur living in Southern Pines, N.C., she relished working long hours during the day at her information technology business and taking classes toward a master’s degree at night. Morgan was always full of energy, at least until her symptoms started.
“I started coming home from work and falling asleep,” she says. “I had been suffering more from colds, flu, and other viruses and infections than I used to. I hadn’t felt right for some time.”
After more than a year of treating these seemingly minor but constant problems, Morgan was finally diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in the blood. “My initial diagnosis came as quite a shock, but I also had an odd feeling of relief because I finally knew that something was really wrong with me,” she says.
Multiple myeloma is not curable, but it is manageable, says Istvan Redei, MD, director of the stem cell and cell therapy program at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Midwestern Regional Medical Center. Dr. Redei works with many multiple myeloma patients, and he says doctors have to work hard to explain to patients that while multiple myeloma is incurable, that doesn’t mean it’s terminal. Rather, Redei looks at it as a chronic condition that can be managed if treated appropriately.
“We have treatments now that can give a patient several years, and then, during those years, new treatments will be developed that can give them even more years,” Redei says. “Multiple myeloma research is an exciting field right now, and it’s very dynamic. Now we’re giving patients extra time, and with good management, they’re having a good quality of life for many years.”
While breakthroughs in the treatment of multiple myeloma have been exciting for patients and doctors, the diagnosis is still life-altering. Here are five first steps you can take after diagnosis to live a fuller, better life while managing multiple myeloma.