Up until 2015, I was very fortunate to be in great physical health. Post-retirement, I was running a successful business that provided graduation gowns across the country.
In March of 2015, everything changed. I was feeling very tired and having severe pains in my back, below my shoulder. I went in for a medical checkup and was told that my HBC was very low and we would need to do another test in a month’s time.
I went back in May for additional testing and something was wrong. My HBC was even lower and I needed to have a bone marrow test done. Within a week, the test revealed I had Multiple Myeloma, an incurable cancer of bone and blood. My oncologist, Dr. Sindu Kangeekel, suggested I start chemotherapy. Within a week, I began 8 weeks of chemotherapy,
which was once every week.
While I was undergoing treatment, my wife of 43 years, Mary, was working as an RN in Detroit, MI at Henry Ford Hospital. She also began experiencing significant back pain. Her doctor assumed this was due to her moving and lifting patients, but after consulting with my doctor and going through the same testing as me, my oncology couldn’t believe the results.
Mary was also diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. The only difference between us was that she was stage 3. Our oncologist sent her for a CT scan, and it revealed that Mary had 4 collapsed vertebrae, and this was the cause for her severe pain.
An oncologist researcher I know from Ottawa tried finding similar cases like this, but there were none recorded in Canada. They had never seen anything like this before, with a husband and wife having the same cancer, at the same time.
My wife and I worked in different industries. I worked in the automotive field for 30 years and Mary worked in health care. We checked our home for any traces of radiation, but none was found.
Our young son valiantly fought leukemia and was treated for 6 years with chemotherapy from 1990 – 1996. Being primary caregivers for him during this time might have contributed to the type of cancer my wife and I developed years later. Mary began chemotherapy treatment, and since I was a good candidate for stem cell transplant, Dr. Kangeekal arranged for me to go to London for all the checkups.
At the time, all patients from Windsor were going to London or Hamilton and staying there for 3-4 weeks for recovery. This was very difficult for patients and their families.
Metropolitan hospital was bringing patients back to Windsor after their transplant to complete their recovery there. Fortunately, I was the first patient to do the recovery in Windsor. Two days after my transplant, they brought me back to Windsor. I cannot thank the doctors and nurses enough for the level of care they provided. Their staff was so caring and compassionate. God bless them. I also thank Dr. Mathew and Dr. Sindu for taking care of me.
Recovery after the transplant was very challenging. Before your transplant, you are given a very high dose of chemotherapy. The result attacks every cell in your body, both good and bad.
There are countless side effects, including skin loss. Even a drop of water to drink results in immense pain and discomfort.
I did not give up my faith in God and firmly believe that positivity kept me alive and sane. My nurses asked me how I was able to handle this, God had a plan for me. Visits from friends and pastors from my church kept me motivated to get better.
In October 2015, Mary had her transplant in London and came to Windsor for recovery. We were in remission for three and a half years and did well.
Then in July 2019, we both relapsed and started the chemotherapy treatment again every week. The only good thing is we can go together, with 2 beds next to each other for our treatments.
My advice to any of you that are newly diagnosed, please do not give up hope~
You will get through this if you have a positive mindset. If you have faith, the Lord will guide your path.