“The Staff, the nurses, everybody is just kind, and skilled, and made things easier.”
Two years ago I really decided to take charge of my health and change my lifestyle. I did yoga and went to the gym four days a week, and really made my health a priority. That is why in November of 2019, when I started experiencing back pain I didn’t think much of it. I thought I had just sprained my back. I went a little easier with my exercises but, after six weeks, the pain was not going away. I decided to visit my local orthopaedic clinic where they did X-rays and an MRI that showed a compression fracture in my back. I also went to my primary care doctor for blood tests, and later that day he called me to tell me my blood tests showed a high level of myeloma protein that is produced when there is an abnormal increase of plasma cells in the bone marrow. It can be indicative of multiple myeloma.
A Fortuitous Connection
I am 49 years old, and because of my age and health I was shocked at the diagnosis. Besides the fracture (which was the result of the myeloma), I had no other symptoms and was feeling fine. My wife happens to be a pharmacist at Jeanes Hospital; when we learned about my test results, she immediately had me schedule an appointment with Dr. Henry Chi Hang Fung, the Chair of the Department of Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapies. He saw me right away. I had a bone marrow biopsy and a number of other tests to confirm my multiple myeloma diagnosis that same day. The plan was to start treatment immediately and then, after eight weeks, I was to undergo a bone marrow transplant. The plan changed slightly due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and my transplant was pushed to July 2020. In the meantime, I started another treatment, driven by the latest research that Dr. Fung had been following. When the time came for my bone marrow transplant I was able to have an autologous stem cell transplant, meaning I was using my own cells. This makes the process a bit easier since I do not have to be on anti-rejection drugs, but it still was a slow recovery. The transplant entailed spending two weeks in the hospital in the Fox Chase–Temple University Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant unit.
Support All Around
The staff in the BMT unit was amazing. Everyone is kind and skilled and made things easier, even on days when I had no appetite or energy. I am a geriatrician at a retirement community and have formed lasting relationships with my patients and staff through the years. They sent many well wishes to me while I was in treatment and recovery and their support has been incredible.
I was able to leave the BMT unit in August, and it took me about three weeks to gain weight and get my energy back. In October, I was able to return to my job and my patients. It has been really good to get back into the swing of things. Now I return to Fox Chase once a month for maintenance therapy and check in with Dr. Fung or Nurse Practitioner Heather Woods, CRNP. The plan is to do this for the next three years, unless something changes. Dr. Fung is really on top of things in this very rapidly changing field.
When I was first diagnosed and heard multiple myeloma was incurable I went through so many emotions. In the months since and during the course of my treatment I have been able to see things more rationally and understand that, while it is not curable, it is a manageable disease. Dr. Fung has really emphasized that there are so many options and treatments available to me with advancements happening every day. At the moment I am feeling well and I look forward to getting back to the things I want to do, like go to the gym and getting back to my fitness routine. I feel so lucky to have access to such wonderful, comprehensive cancer care right in our backyard.
Learn more about the Fox Chase–Temple University Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant Program.