Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hearing the 'R' word for the first time

At times during my treatment for Multiple Myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow), I wondered if I would live to see my next birthday, never mind living to hear the 'R' word (Remission) but here I am on Friday 26 September 2014 celebrating seven years of remission.

It's a feeling of indescribable joy really to still be here and to be mostly fighting fit. 

I was reading through my 2007 journal last night and this is what was happening seven years ago:

Wednesday 26 September 2007

A couple of weeks earlier I had a bone marrow biopsy (ouch) to see if my stem cell transplant had worked and to see if the myeloma was gone. I attended the haematology day ward in Tallagh hospital for results. This diary entry was written at the end of that day seven years ago.

I can't describe how in bits I was this morning. I was wide awake at 5.30am walking around the house, pacing up and down. Sleep didn't come to easily last night either. I got very emotional with the kids this morning - I know they didn't really understand why. I was uptight, nervous and it was very difficult to speak any words that made sense.

I had decided to go to the hospital by myself and I know my family members weren't that happy but that's the way I decided to do it today. If it was bad news I would have time to absorb it myself before I had to break the news to anyone else. People knew I was getting my results today so my phone was hopping with texts all morning with good wishes and offers of prayers.

I dropped the kids to school and delayed a bit chatting to people - all the time prolonging the journey to Tallaght Hospital.

When I got to the hospital I had to have my regular bloods done so I headed straight to phlebotomy. Then it was up to haematology. I had a fair idea that some of the nurses knew my results but they couldn't say anything. I had to hear whatever the news was from my consultant Dr Slaby.

In fairness they all knew how nervous I was and they got me into a side room to wait for Dr Slaby almost as soon as they saw me. He arrived and was a bit concerned about the cough I have. I was sitting beside him and I could see the computer screen. I was afraid to look at it as he pulled up my results. My left hand was shaking so much that I had to sit on it to stop it. I glanced at him and then glanced at the screen and lots of numbers and words blurred in front of me but then I thought I saw the words 'no myeloma present in the bone marrow sample'. I thought I was seeing things so I closed my eyes and then he said the words: "We've done it. The Myeloma is gone'. I punched the air with both fists. I wanted to scream the place down but I somehow composed myself. I don't know how or why.

I honestly didn't hear a word he said to me after that - something about maintenance treatment. Then he realised I wasn't hearing him and he said - that's for another day. He said he was concerned about my cough so he insisted I hang around for an Xray. I was bursting to get out of the office and he eventually said that's it and we shook hands.

I ran out into the day ward and ran straight into one of the nurses who had taken care of me and I said 'I'm in remission' and she said 'I know' with a huge smile on her face. She hugged me and realised how badly I was shaking from shock so she put me into a side office and told me to dial 9 for a line out and not to come out or attempt to leave the hospital until I was a bit more settled. She said well done and left with a huge smile on her face.

Pic of me taken in Autumn 2013 

I dialled 9 and called my hubby Bryan but there was no answer. Then I dialled my mother and just as she was about to talk to me I cut her off. I couldn't work my mobile as I was all fingers and thumbs. Bryan rang me back and it was one of the most emotional moments of my life and I could hardly get the words out. I'm in remission I said and started to cry - tears of happiness. He said 'you deserve champagne tonight so that's what we will do'. It was just a moment of amazement I will never forget.

I called other friends and then my work colleagues as I knew people were waiting and there was such joy and love coming at me down the phone lines from family, friends, colleagues. My phone went into overdrive.

I switched the phone off and just sat by myself for a while taking it all in. I did it. I was in remission. All the awfulness, all the suffering and trauma, all the worry - I had done it. I was in remission.

End of diary entry 

I remember leaving the room and meeting the other nurses - they were all thrilled as they had all been willing me to be well. I owe my life to this team of amazing men and women in the day ward in Tallaght. There was no way to ever repay them for giving me my life back but I am determined to try by staying well for as long as I possibly can.

There was such joy in the dayward but we all had to mindful of people around me who were not receiving good news on the day I got my life back. I went off for my Xray and skipped out the door of the hospital. I wanted to stop everyone I met and tell them that I had done it! I am in remission.

I remember heading home down the N7 singing along to the radio. My daughter Emma who was 9 at the time knew that I was getting results on that day. I remember her school bus pulling up and seeing her walking across the green outside our house so I ran over to her and we just stood in the middle of the green hugging after I had told her the news. She was so happy for me.

It was such an incredible moment. At the time I had no idea that my neighbour was watching - she knew I was getting results that day and she dropped in a card later that day telling me that she had stood at her window watching this beautiful moment between mother and daughter unfold before her eyes. She said it was impossible not to cry!

That was seven year's ago today and there have been so many more beautiful moments that have unfolded in my life and I so grateful for every one of them. 

We all take things in our lives for granted - time being one of them.

I've watched my daughter grow into the most wonderful 17 year old girl. 

I've watched my baby boy grow into a charming and witty 10 year old. 

I'm getting to grow older with my hubby of 19 years. 

Time is the thing I find myself most grateful for. It's wonderful. 

Here's to continuing to kick cancer's butt and to savouring time. 




  1. Hey Brenda,

    I lost my beautiful Dad last year to Multiple Myeloma as well as other complications, I had until last year never heard of MM before. I have recently been reading more about it to try and understand what he went through. I came across this blog and it was nice to read about a happy outcome although I understand you will require regular checks etc. Anyway I took up running in march to help cope with losing my Dad and decided to run in the Dublin Marathon on October 26th 2015, I am running to raise funds for Multiple Myeloma. You can read my story on my page of you are at all interested. I wish you all the best xxx Jaimee

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