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Friday, August 14, 2015

Day One

O Fortuna (O Fortune)
velut luna (like the moon)
statu variabilis (you are changeable)
semper crescis (ever waxing)
aut decrescis; (and waning;)
vita detestabilis (hateful life)
nunc obdurat (first oppresses)
et tunc curat (and then soothes)
ludo mentis aciem, (as fancy takes it)
egestatem, (poverty)
potestatem (and power)
dissolvit ut glaciem. (it melts them like ice.)

-- Carmina Burana

April, 2014. "You need to get to the ER now. Your kidneys have failed." These are words no-one wants to hear. These are words I did not want to hear. Yet I heard them about a year ago, delivered in a strikingly matter-of-fact tone over the phone. I was in a morning meeting at work. It's strange that I remember the tone of her voice so well. Shouldn't there have been some screaming or urgency there?

What do you say to that? I said, "what do you mean my kidneys have failed?" She said something like, "your creatinine level is above 10 and you are in kidney failure." Up til a month ago, I'd never even heard of creatinine. Well. I was stunned to say the least. I called my wife and we made our way to the ER.

About a month before, I was in for my routine physical. In the words of my Physician's Assistant, my kidney numbers "looked a little funny". That meant that my creatinine level was about 2, which is about twice what it should be. She ordered a kidney ultrasound, some new medicine for my thyroid (whose function was also low).

That initial ultrasound did not detect anything, and after, a 24-hour collection of urine and more blood tests were ordered.

There are a lot of things you don't want to hear, and "your kidneys have failed" is one. Another is, "you have a kidney stone which
requires surgery to remove". Another is, "you have a cancerous mass in your left kidney." And another yet is, "you have Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells." Unfortunately, I heard all these things.

Getting to that final Myelmoa diagnosis took a long and unnerving several days about one year ago (May 2014). Things progressed from my yearly physical, having some kidney numbers that "look a little funny" to this. Welcome to the Club. The "C" club. No-one wants to be in it, but I am. My family is. It's simply not fair, but it's my new life.

Thus began my most life altering odyssey, ever. So far. I say "so far" because one thing I've learned over the past year is you don't know what's coming. Not that we should live our lives looking back over our shoulder, but I have joined that club no-one wants to be in. In a short span of time, beginning one year ago, my life was re-organized in a ruthless way.

My body is well looked after, we are blessed to live in an area with outstanding medical care and cutting edge research. My physical life is permanently changed, however. I have a cancer for which there is nothing considered to be a cure, I have lost a kidney to another cancer, and I'm on dialysis every night because of the damage caused by the myeloma. My feet suffer from constant neuropathy which is an odd combination of numbness and tingling pain. It's an unfortunate side effect of a life-saving chemotherapy which will hopefully one day go away.

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