Dear Cancer

Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the mountains where my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”.  

 Dear Cancer, 

You came into my life, and I was only 46 years old by way of Multiple Myeloma on November 10, 2010.   You tried to rob me of my peace and happiness right before the joyous holiday season.  I refused to allow you to succeed at taking away what is always one of the happiest times of the year.  Therefore, I decided to take a very proactive approach.  I asked my doctor what treatment approach we would take and how soon could we get started. Then my cancer journey began. With doctor appointments, chemotherapy, labs, bone marrow biopsy, infusions, and all kind of medication. 

On November 17, 2010, I started chemotherapy. I had four cycles which was 16 treatments. Then the cancer returned in November 2011.  Again, I had to endure four cycles of chemotherapy which was 16 treatments. This time I experienced a blood clot.  I called my doctor and told her that I was not able to take my daily walk because I was short of breath and just tied.  She told me to get to the hospital. I got to the hospital and had an Xray.  The test revealed a blood clot.  I was hospitalized and started on blood thinners.  Once released from the hospital, I was prescribed blood thinners for six months. The cancer returned in August 2019 and this time there is no end to my treatment.  However, I was not able to inform my family at that time because my dad had gotten sick and was not expected to live.  My father passed away, and I traveled to Georgia to his funeral.  Before I returned home, I had a talk with my family to inform them that my cancer had returned.   

This third time around my treatment plan was very different because I did not have to travel back and forth to the hospital for treatment.  Because now I am on what is called maintenance, my medication is shipped to me, and I take it at home.  I am on 21 days of medication and seven days off.  Cancer, you attacked me psychologically, physically, and certainly mentally.  Some of the things that I have experienced on this journey is neuropathy in my feet and hands, my vision has become very bad, I need reading classes for almost everything, back pain, leg pain, issues from time to time running to empty my bladder, and to have bowel movements.  There were times that I had to pack a lunch and snacks every time that I left home because I was always hungry. I have always had a very good appetite. Multiple Myeloma may be terminal, but I’m keeping it moving cancer. This journey has not been easy, but I am resilient and still standing.  

What I have learned from this cancer journey is that we must inform doctors how to treat their patients.  I have certainly had some awesome doctors, but some doctors refused to listen to their patients. Especially patients who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color, (BIPOC). The doctors are certainly experts in their perspective fields.  However, I am an expert when it comes to my body.  If I inform you that I am in pain, this simply means that “I am in pain”. I did not know that “in pain” needed to be explained like they do not know what being in pain really mean.  I could have been diagnosed sooner if the original doctors had only listened to me.  

But guess what cancer, here I am almost 14 years later?  I sing in the choir at church, volunteer with AARP, active participant in my neighborhood association and social work association, I volunteer with two different food pantries, and I am a volunteer certified representative to sign up individuals for the Supplemental Nutritional Program, (SNAP).  On May 18, 2024, I will graduate with my master’s in public health (MPH). I am preparing to apply to a few doctoral programs. Cancer guess who is turning 60 years old on August 3, 2024? My graduation and birthday gift to me is a trip to Ghana. Thank you, cancer, for allowing me to see that despite how you tried to defeat me I am resilient.  God elevated me and used me throughout this journey.  He allowed me to keep my focus on Him and Him alone and not the cancer.  God allowed me to share Jesus with those who did not know him, pray for people in treatment with me and pass out gospel tracts when I would go to treatments to patients and staff. 

I did not take this journey without help along the way.  Special thanks to Epic Experience, Healthtree Black Multiple Myeloma, Ochsner Hospital, LSU Healthcare System, Cancer Care, LLS, Co-Payment Assistance, People’s Health, Bristol Myer Squibb, my family and Church family.

2024 Written by Aurlisa C. Isom, LMSW, MPH Candidate