Living well with multiple myeloma – cancer of the plasma cells – can be challenging, but that’s not to say it can’t be done.
Take Yelak Biru, 46, who was diagnosed with full-blown stage IIIA multiple myeloma when he was just 25-years-old. “I was recently married, had just started graduate school, and was anticipating a full life ahead of me, when the doctor called me,” Biru writes in Conquer magazine.
“You have multiple myeloma. It’s highly treatable, but it’s not curable,” Biru recalled of his doctor’s words. “I did not understand the full extent of his statement. At this young age, I didn’t expect to be “sick,” let alone be told I had cancer. But who does?”
Later, he added, “When I was first diagnosed in 1996, all the novel drugs available today for multiple myeloma were not yet available. There were different drugs used for multiple myeloma back then, mainly chemotherapy drugs. So I initially started therapy with the combination regimen known as VAD (which stands for vincristine, doxorubicin, and dexamethasone); this regimen was considered the standard induction chemotherapy then. After that, I opted not to collect my stem cells but not to have a transplant. That treatment combination with VAD put me in complete remission for 5 years, during which I did not have any treatment.”
By the time Biru had wrapped up therapy, he was $50k in debt. Unfortunately, shortly after, his cancer returned not two, not three, but four times over the years.
So, how has Biru made it through?
“First, we need to have an abundance of hope. I believe hope is the anchor that keeps our ship floating and keeps it from drifting in the storm. Hope is necessary for anyone who is facing a cancer diagnosis. But hope requires a plan; hope without a plan of action is just a dream,” he revealed, laying out one of “three necessary things,” needed to live fully with the condition.