An incurable multiple myeloma diagnosis brought Gary to cCARE, where quick treatment and people on staff who cared about him made all the difference
Gary’s first time meeting cCARE’s Dr. Edward McClay was after a night in the hospital and a bone marrow biopsy in January 2015. Dr. McClay entered Gary’s hospital room and introduced himself as Gary’s oncologist. Up until that moment, Gary didn’t know he needed an oncologist but knew what that meant.
“I was working overnight, bent over and had a severe pain in my back, then couldn’t stand up straight,” recalls Gary. “My wife called an ambulance, and after some testing everyone knew something major was wrong. And then I met Dr. McClay.”
Gary was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma forms in the blood cells and causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, where they crowd out healthy blood cells.
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Thorough and compassionate care eases Gary’s struggle with cancer
Needless to say, Gary was shocked. Multiple myeloma causes bone pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and more. Thankfully, Gary says, he had Dr. McClay as his doctor and started treatment right away.
“If you could rate multiple myeloma in stages, I was clearly stage four,” Gary recalls. “Dr. McClay didn’t waste any time and because of that I’m still sitting here today.”
After one year of treatment, Gary had gotten significantly better. There is no cure, as of yet, for multiple myeloma. The treatment plan is to ensure the patient has the best quality of life possible.
“Nobody wants cancer, and nobody knows how to deal with it until they are in the midst of it. But having cCARE and all the wonderful people around me, who care about me, really makes a difference.”
In addition to Dr. McClay, Gary says that all of the cCARE staff and providers were helpful and thorough. Helping him work through his medications and treatment plans is something Gary appreciated. Gary says his cCARE team focused on him as person, not just to get him in and out of the facility.
“Cancer is a journey for anyone, but it’s been a whole lot better with these people by my side,” he says.
Two steps forward, one step back
Unfortunately, Gary’s journey through cancer had a setback. He was diagnosed with cancer in his femur. The diagnosis was a bump in the road that caused more problems than expected.
To treat the cancer in his leg, Gary received radiation at a different clinic. However, he also had chemotherapy the same day at cCARE. This combination was not something Gary’s body could handle, and Dr. McClay had to quickly change tactics with Gary’s treatment.
“If Dr. McClay had not been there and seen all of these things, I would not be here,” he says. “He reacted so quickly.”
After this adjustment, Gary says he is back to stable and feeling much better.
Living – and eating – with multiple myeloma symptoms
“Today I feel pretty good,” he says. “We are at a place where I feel good. I can walk my dog, which I could not do before.”
Gary has been living with multiple myeloma for four years, with Dr. McClay as his physician the whole time. He says getting cancer was a shock, but you have to move past it and realize there’s more to do.
“It’s a shock to your system. You think, Not me. How could it be me?” says Gary. “Your whole life comes before you and you are stopped in your tracks. But you have to deal with it.”
For Gary, dealing with it meant learning how to do the basics again, like eating and sleeping. Cancer medication affects everyone differently, but for many patients it negatively impacts appetite and sleep quality.
Gary cannot eat the same things he did before the cancer treatment and has had a very difficult time sleeping. He says getting in tune with his body made all the difference. Learning what makes him feel better was vital in living with cancer, and Gary says he would tell that to anyone going through a similar situation.
“Get acquainted with your body. Learn as much as you can about your cancer and how to fight it,” he says. “Do exactly what your doctor tells you to do. But really learn how to make yourself feel better.”
With the help of cCARE, his wife of 28 years, and the guidance of Dr. McClay, Gary says he gained his life.
“I get emotional when I think about it,” Gary says. “This is your life you’re talking about! I don’t think I can say it enough: Dr. McClay saved my life.”