Lillian's Story

Frequent recurrent sinus infections, colds and ‘flu’s often needing antibiotics, and a slightly low hemoglobin made me think “I must be run down and working too much.” which would explain my feeling tired all the time.

Then, when I experienced back pain, I assumed it was due to a work related injury. Trying get better quickly, I tried all the modalities from massage therapy to physio treatments three times a week and nothing seemed to help. Finally out of desperation I went to a chiropractor for my back pain. I remember standing in the doorway to the treatment room saying “If you can’t make me better, please don’t make me any worse.” The instant intense pain following the treatment told me I was worse. X-rays showed I had sustained four vertebral fractures and consequently had lost three and half inches in height. That in itself wasn’t good since I was only five feet tall.

A diagnosis of myeloma was made and I underwent a stem cell transplant in Vancouver.

Following the transplant I ask my haematologist “how long do I have?” Not only was this an unfair question but in hind sight it was not helpful. Statistics for survival following transplant then were about a year and a half. Accepting, but sad and disappointed, life was on hold as I waited to die. But the year and a half came and went, followed by the three year mark and I was still here. Only then did I begin making tentative future plans which included starting a Myeloma Support Group with my sister Donna.

Treatments have not always been easy, relapses happen, bones break and infections are a problem but each up and down of this cancer is dealt with as it comes. Gratefully, I am still here after thirteen years!

In the scheme of life, as they say, as one door closes another opens, and through the second open door so many selfless, kind-hearted, caring, dedicated people have entered making my life profoundly richer. Catastrophic illness brings the added benefit of quickly sorting out what is important; so much of what we consider “important” really isn’t.

Every person is unique and statistics are too general to govern your life. And I believe knowing about your condition is your greatest asset. Most importantly remember that you have lived in your body many years and are the expert on how you feel. Medical professional experts will help you but you are the best authority on you.

I live each day with the hope and belief “Everyday alive is one day closer to a cure.”

Lillian Barton