This is my Uncle Tom exchanging vows with my Aunt Charlotte on their wedding day. I’m sure it’s not difficult to see how unique he is. Tom was diagnosed with cancer over 4 1/2 years ago, specifically multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood plasma. We’ve always been close (he tells people he considers me more his brother than his nephew) and I was the first one he told back in October of 2008. He also told me that the average life expectancy for this disease was 60 months.
That was 56 months ago and during that time Tom has lived what he calls “a disease threatening life” all while enduring chemo, blood transfusions, a bone marrow replacement, and endless tests and therapies. For most of those months you wouldn’t have even known he had an incurable, terminal cancer unless he told you- that’s how he rolled. But this last year has been tough.
Tom began experiencing serious anemia last year which turned into severe anemia this year. At times he would need two units of blood every couple of weeks just to keep him walking and the doctors didn’t (and still don’t) know why. They believe his body was attacking its own red blood cells which can be a very rare side-effect of some of the chemo he was on. If that weren’t enough his cancer cells began returning and despite a few different chemo options they don’t seem to be declining.
Tom told me today that he and his oncologist discussed whether his cancer treatment was doing any good at this point. His doctor has suggested we begin hospice. He goes to Yale in two weeks for more tests and a second opinion and who knows? Perhaps there are still some stones to turn.
“Month 60” is beginning to seem more and more real. I still can’t get my head or heart around it even though I see him several times a week and it’s obvious how ill he is. Other than writing this, all I can do is pray, sleep and wait.