July 27, 2017

Finding the Way

How do new patients find their way to the Myeloma Center? Often through a family physician or local oncologist or through a lot of online research. Sometimes the path is a bit circuitous. That was the case for Linda King from Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

In 2006 Linda received the devastating news of her diagnosis, thanks to her family physician’s insistence that they figure out the cause of Linda’s anemia that surfaced during a routine physical exam.  He referred her to a cancer center for more diagnostic testing.  With confirmation from results of a bone marrow biopsy and the pronouncement of an average life expectancy of three years from a Kansas City oncologist, Linda and her husband, Steve, was back in her family doctor’s office asking for a second opinion. At his suggestion, they made an appointment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Then, some unexpected networking kicked in.  A lifetime friend of Steve’s, who lives 1,300 miles away, shared Linda’s diagnosis with a golfing partner, who happens to be an oncologist. The oncologist encouraged Steve’s friend to tell Linda that she should go to the Myeloma Center at UAMS “because it is the best place in the world to receive treatment for multiple myeloma.”

Still pondering their options, Linda and Steve met with the oncologist who had treated Steve’s father for lymphoma. That oncologist recommended canceling the MD Anderson appointment and going directly to Little Rock because the Myeloma Center focused almost exclusively on myeloma and was, in his opinion, the best at fighting it.

Two separate oncologists — from different parts of the country — made the same recommendation. That was enough for Linda and Steve to finalize a decision about where to go for treatment.

When Linda first came to the Myeloma Center she was gripped by fear ­— fear that cancer could not be controlled and that the treatment would be grueling.

“Our world was full of unknowns, and frankly we were scared to death to leave our home and go to Little Rock to learn more about what to expect from this cancer,” Steve said.

Linda was enrolled in the Total Therapy III protocol that included two back-to-back stem cell transplants — one in August 2006 and the second in October 2006 — as well as chemotherapy during the induction and consolidation phases of treatments. She has been in complete remission ever since.

The most challenging aspects of treatment for Linda were the fatigue and separation from family, friends, and home. Her antidote to the challenges and the fear was a positive attitude fueled by her own inner strength, a dream to see her great-grandchildren enter the world one day, and reassurance from her Myeloma Center physician that she had an excellent chance of a normal life expectancy.

The rewards for Linda are many, as she is able to live life the way she wants without any limitations from the myeloma or the treatments. The ultimate reward, in addition to sustained complete remission, is that she got to welcome great-grandchildren into the family. Linda spends a lot of time with them and is an integral part of their lives.

“If we had to do it again, we would definitely opt to come to the Myeloma Center in a heartbeat,” she said.

Many patients who travel to the Myeloma Center discover that Little Rock is filled with warm hospitality and an abundance of interesting sites, such as the River Market, the  William J. Clinton Presidential Center
and the Old State House.

“We found various  special things in and around Little Rock that actually made our trips enjoyable,” Linda said. “Steve is an avid bicycle rider and the Arkansas River Trail is one of the best off-road biking/walking trails he has ever experienced. He takes his bike on every trip to Little Rock.”

Linda and Steve are grateful to the Myeloma Center for enabling Linda to live life in a totally productive and enjoyable way.  That gratitude has led them to make annual donations in support of the institute’s research.

“We anticipate that you compete with other, more common cancers, for research dollars. We hope that, in some small way, we are helping you to help others, just like you did for us,” they said. “We would advise anyone who has been diagnosed with myeloma to make sure that the Myeloma Center is on the list of choices to consider. And then move it to the top of that list.”