Finding Gratitude in My Myeloma Experience


I’m more than six years out from my myeloma diagnosis and realized that I’m capable of more than just surviving.

Lying in the hospital bed looking out the window, I feel despondent and lonely. I see construction outside my window. What does this mean? There was no view...just the cage-like scaffolding climbing along the wall like a steel philodendron.

One of the first doctors in white — very pregnant — looks like an angel and appears in my room. She informs me that my diagnosis is most likely multiple myeloma. However, there needs to be a bone marrow biopsy in order to definitely determine the condition.

I did not realize that the procedure was going to be in my bed. My sheets are crumpled like crushed butterfly wings. The smell of alcohol and disinfectant permeates the room.

Lo and behold, the angelic doctor arrives again to do the procedure with her assistant. I breathe a sigh of relief since I trust her. Before the procedure, I hear my sister, Karen, say, “I think Ron needs morphine to dull the pain!” Before I know it, an IV with colorless liquid is flowing through my veins.

I slowly roll over to my right side like an elephant enjoying the pillowy, muddy waters. I ask if I can play music. Yes, of course! My iPhone sits next to my ear, and I put on soothing music ("Alleluja" by Riki Newell).

I transport my mind into the heavens and stars as the needle punctures my hip, I begin to chant “Om manipadme hum...Om manipadme hum....” and as I feel the needle going deeper, I chant even louder.“OM MANI PADME HUM...OMMM...” going with the movement of the steel pin digging into the white structure of my hip bone. "One more time," says the saintly surgeon. “Ommmm….Ommmm….OMMMMM.”

You can hear my anguished moans in the waiting room.

Is this the pain the doctor will feel when she gives birth?

Time seems eternal, and then it's over. I roll back and relax on my hospital bed, surrounded by supporting barriers on each side.

I credit my mother for demonstrating the power of appreciating the world around us and expressing gratitude to others. In spite of several traumatic sufferings such as having one lung removed, nearly killed by a car in playground as a child, suicide of her mother at our home, she overcame all with grace and fortitude. She was known throughout her life as a kind, generous person who was always smiling.

I am like the young duckling imprinted by my mother. I find reasons to express my gratitude with a word or smile to my nurses, my doctors and the EMT and paramedic teams who pick me up by stretcher ambulance for twice-weekly infusions. Everyone comments that it is a pleasure to take care of me. I think that’s because I feel and show honest appreciation for the care they give me.

In the world of multiple myeloma support groups and conferences, conversations are filled with the language of chemotherapy, toxicology, cancer, bone marrow transplant and relapse. It is both enlightening and depressing to listen to my fellow multiple myeloma warriors describe their journeys.

Fighting this overwhelming discouragement, I learned to use different words to describe the chemo, calling them “healing elixirs.” I bless all my healing elixirs by ringing my Tibetan bells and quietly chanting the mantra “Om manipadme hum” with the intention of inviting only the benefits of the medicine into my body. I greet the interventions of my doctors, nurses, and social workers by affirming, “We believe in magic and miracles!”

By integrating these mantras into my daily vocabulary, I feel blessed: by my primary care doctor who makes house calls to visit me; the social worker who steals special bandages from the hospital supply closet because my insurance would cover only a limited amount; and the orthotics and prosthetics technician who has personally delivered a body brace then stayed to ensure that it is properly fitted and placed on my body. These experiences confirm that the words we choose, spoken with positive intentions, help resilience.

Here it is six years later, I realize that I am capable of more than surviving.

I am truly grateful for my daily Bells of Hope family — each member has immeasurably contributed to my well-being. I have learned so much from our heartfelt company of support and understanding.

My wife, Heather, unwittingly has become my personal aide, caretaker, nurse and advocate. Overnight, she transformed into the lioness watching over her disabled companion. She is my Kuan Yin, the Chinese Bodhisattva of compassion, mercy and kindness. Her sense of willpower and unwavering determination is substantial and palpable.

A caring friend quietly speaks to me and divulges confidence after sharing the ups and downs of her own health journey: “You are one of the chosen few. This is an opportunity to die and get reborn in the same lifetime.”

I close my essay with this quote from a Dr. Seuss' book, “Oh, the Places you'll Go”:

"You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes. 

You can steer yourself any direction you choose. 

You’re on your own. 

And you know what you know. 

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

This post was written and submitted by Ronald Chin. The article reflects the views of Ronald Chin and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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