I would like to thank all of those individuals that have communicated their prayers and expressions of concern to me. It is very true that I have been blessed by God, and the power of positive thinking. There is no doubt in my mind that the power of collective prayer and the expressions of concern and hope create an energy that is an impalpable force that can be experienced and is effective. As I continue to live my life, I would like to ask that my friends, family and acquaintances continue to pray and express your hopes for me.
Battling multiple myeloma is a strange struggle. Often, there are few outward signs that a person is afflicted with this terminal disease. In my own situation, I have been fortunate to be able to walk, bend and move fairly well, given that the disease destroyed a vertebra and necessitated eleven levels of fusion in my spine and, consequently caused my heart to stop beating. Certainly, I am alive, feel very well, but am somewhat shorter than I used to be. I incline my head more than I used to do. Even so, I can walk several city blocks without a cane. I will win no foot races, but that is of no matter. I concentrate on maintaining good balance in my movements and am careful when people are moving around me. Motorcycle riding is fondly remembered and relegated to my past, but I can still drive my little red Corvette. The signs of the disease are few and I seem to manage them pretty well. But, as the cancer is carried in the blood, Multiple Myeloma is a stealthy disease and often presents tumors in soft tissue and in bones of the body.
As there is no cure today, remission of the disease is the goal of treatment. An individual may have many years of progression-free remission depending upon the type of myeloma and the success of treatment strategies. I have a type of multiple myeloma that is resistant to chemotherapy and which necessitated a stem cell transplant. Stem cell transplants are done after an individual’s bone marrow is clinically destroyed in order to eradicate as much of the cancer cells as possible. An individual’s previously harvested and stored stem cells are transplanted back into the body where they rapidly repopulate the bone marrow. My procedure was performed April 3, 2013 at Emory University. This was a new birthday for me, as my body was given what amounted to a good scrubbing and I received the gift of a new immune system. As cancer cells still linger in the system post-transplant, patients must undergo a maintenance regimen. That takes me up to the present day.
I am in my third two week cycle of Pomalyst, a newly released chemotherapy in the same family of thalidomide and Revlimid that has lowered the paraprotein level or m-spike in my blood. It also happens to cost $10,000 dollars for the twenty-one capsules in one of the cycles, a little tidbit that Mary served me yesterday at Winship. Mary is careful about what she shares with me from such publications as The Myeloma Beacon. She knows that I am like an individual with a substance abuse problem when it comes to researching and reading about the disease. It may sound paradoxical for a man who loves learning and writes a blog (sporadically), but I must steer clear of reading about the disease and reading about the experiences of those suffering from multiple myeloma. I tend to overdose on the topic and it does no good for my emotional well-being.
The paraprotein level or m-spike is the degree of cancer cells still in my body. Prior to my stem cell transplant, after over a year of conventional radiation therapy and cutting-edge chemotherapy, my paraprotein or m- spike level had smoldered and had not rapidly climbed, but it had resisted eradication. Before the transplant, my m-spike was at 6.0. As of October 1, 2013 it had fallen to 1.0. My oncologist in Alpharetta is a superb doctor and trained at Emory with my Winship oncologist. When a stem cell transplant was necessitated, my treatment was handed over to Emory to the training colleague. The two have worked in conjunction with one another. My oncologist at Emory’s Winship Clinic is heading my treatment at this point. He is at the top of his field and has international renown. He wants the level to be ZERO. As he has explained to me, there are two camps of oncologists in the treatment of Multiple Myeloma which amount to Hawks and Doves. World famous medical institutions align themselves with the philosophies of these two camps. Winship Clinic oncologists are the hawks. And for that, I am glad. I continue in maintenance with close monitoring and on a short leash with regard to whether a second or tandem stem cell transplant will be scheduled in the future. In an e-mail to me last night, my doctor said that he has taken the tandem stem cell transplant off the table at present. I hope that my paraprotein level will continue to move toward ZERO.
Although MM has no cure, remission can last for several years. Excellent medical care and the tremendous support of Mary Donley Green and our sons, Evan and Will Green, has helped my struggle with the disease become such an important life lesson for me. None of us can know the details of our future, whether we will have several years or few, but I know that I will endeavor to live life to the fullest of my abilities. Thank you for your support. Undergirded by my belief in a higher power in the universe, it strengthens me.
Michael P. Green
October 2, 2013