Multiple Myeloma Cancer Grad- Cedrik
Name: Cedrik O'Brian Wallace
Age at Enrollment: 40 years old
Major: Multiple Myeloma/stage 3
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? Extreme lower back pain, compression fractures in my lower back, increased cold/flu/headaches in recent year, and brittle bones.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? Waking up in the worst lower back pain imaginable. I couldn't get out of bed.
Courses completed: I endured two bone marrow biopsies, radiation, chemotherapy (Velcade), collection of cells for harvesting, a procedure injecting a needle through my back and into my lungs to withdraw fluids from my lungs, and two years of monthly Zometa treatments (to strengthen my bones). Currently I'm on a maintenance treatment called Revlimid. Each cycle is one pill per day for 21 days followed by a rest period of seven days.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? The hardest moment/moments started 3 days after I was diagnosed. I came down with a severe case of pneumonia that landed me in the hospital. My immune system had shut down due partly to a type of steroid medicine I was placed on. I ended up in the ICU for a week of my stay and left the hospital after a month. The doctor and my family informed me that I had almost passed away during my week in ICU and it was a miracle that I was alive. Due to the pneumonia I had to wait about three months for the fluids in my lungs to disappear before I could start my chemotherapy. The slow process led to my doctor doing a procedure where they stuck a long needle through my back and into my lungs to withdraw the fluids. Shortly thereafter I started my chemo.
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed? What advice would you tell them to ignore? Have your close family or loved one there with you when first talking with doctors because with all of the information coming at you, you may black out. It may all be too overwhelming.
My mother was my friend and caregiver. She lived with me my first year as she would drive and accompany me to all appointments, take notes, ask questions, research, cook, etc. Be sure to follow the exact orders of your doctor. Pray. Stay positive and have those around you deal with anything stressful and/or negative in your life so you can place all of your focus and energy on the fight. Be honest and open about how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Allow yourself SELF time. There were days I'd tell everyone to leave me alone and that I didn't want to hear anything health/medical related. No visitors nor phone calls. We would call it, "I'm having a chemo day" and everyone would know to give me my space that day. It was awesome! Lol.
How did your family and friends respond? It was extremely shocking news to everyone. It was tough on my family because we had never really dealt with cancer. So it was kind of brand new, yet my family showed resilience and strength throughout the entire process. My coworkers were in disbelief but ready to fight with me from the start. They have been there for me from the hospital visits in 2012 to a couple weeks back where they surprised me with an office celebration for my five years in remission.
When you feel overwhelmed or anxious, what do you do? As I stated above, I say, "I'm having a chemo day". That's when I usually just stay home and have some self-time. If I feel up to it, I will exercise or write. I have started writing about my experiences with fighting cancer. I even opened up an Instagram account dedicated to my writing @poeticsoldier (a writing cancer warrior). This has led to a poem of mine, Cancer, being published.
Since your diagnosis, what new belief, habit or behavior has most improved your quality of life? Positivity is key!
Also better eating, less stress, more rest, and living life.
Did you learn anything about yourself or your life? If so, what was it? That I have a purpose to inspire others through... living my life, sharing my testimony, sharing my writing, listening to others who are fighting their own battles and seeking my advice.
If you could write anything you wanted on a billboard in NYC’s Times Square that would reach millions of people, what would it read?
We Are Survivors
Diagnosed with cancer.
Going into survival mode is the answer.
What other choice do we have in this matter.
I mean that's all we think about.
So it's not about if we survive but how we go out.
We are surviving. We are fighting.
We are living as the process we are not depriving.
Losing the fight rather it's short term or long term.
Don't imply the word 'survivor' wasn't earned.
We all die at some point don't we?
Rather it's because of cancer or being cancer-free.
MY STORY IN SHORT:
June 7th, 2012, a month after waking up in the worst pain imaginable and not being able to lay on my back for an entire month, I was diagnosed with stage three Multiple Myeloma. The symptoms that defined "stage three" included the fact that I already had multiple compressed fractures in my lower back and my bones were brittle. I lost 2 inches in my height. Three days after being diagnosed I was admitted to the hospital with a severe case of pneumonia and other complications. This was a result of an immune system that had shut down after being on a steroid treatment for the cancer. Days later I was transferred to the ICU for five days where I almost passed away on the second day. I was in the hospital for a month. During the stay I was transported from the Downey Kaiser to the Sunset/LA Kaiser by ambulance for radiation treatments for a total of five times. I was unable to start chemotherapy because of the pneumonia. Fluids continued to fill my lungs through August, 2012.
After a procedure where they stuck a long needle into my lungs by way of my back, withdrawing the remaining fluids, I was able to start my chemo in September. My chemo included Dexamethasone pills and infusion treatments of Velcade through January, 2013. Side effects included extreme fatigue, weak immune system, hair loss, hot flashes, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness, memory loss, etc. During that time I had some setbacks, including a time where I passed out at home and had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance, where I stayed for 3 days. I also started a monthly treatment called Zometa, a two-hour infusion treatment through IV. This went on for two years and its purpose was to strengthen my bones.
By January 18th, I was in remission. My body had responded well to all treatments. Thereafter I had a procedure done where 8.2 cells were collected for a future bone-marrow transplant, at City Of Hope. This included a three-day chemo treatment prior to the collection. That chemo was HELL. I didn't sleep for three days because it felt like the cells in my body were fighting to get out. Throbbing PAIN! So... after missing nearly a year of work fighting cancer, I had survived. I continue to survive. I'm on a maintenance plan taking what I call "chemo pills". It has its side effects but I'm still in remission and I'm alive. Living my life!