Wed | May 18, 2022

David Chandia: Myeloma warrior

Published:Wednesday | March 30, 2022 | 12:08 AM
David Chandia and his wife, Sandra.
David Chandia and his wife, Sandra.
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No one wants to be diagnosed with cancer, and at the time I found out that I indeed had multiple myeloma (MM), I laughed to myself as I knew that when I die, it would not be from any form of cancer. I promised myself that I would fight as hard and as long as possible with every means at my disposal. This year marks 10 years since I was diagnosed. According to research, the life expectancy of persons receiving treatment is approximately 10 years, and for persons being untreated as myself, it hovers around five to eight years. It is my intention to continue to further stretch the record.

While MM is not a common form of cancer here in Jamaica, it is said that the majority of patients are unfamiliar with the term, having never heard of it until they are so diagnosed and to which I can attest. In trying to understand MM, it is simply a cancer of the bone marrow in which unhealthy plasma cells mutate and multiply uncontrollably, suppressing the growth of healthy cells that make blood. As with most cancers, signs and symptoms can vary, and in the early stages there can be none. In my case, I believed that I experienced most of the symptoms which include bone pain especially in my spine, fractures, fatigue, weight loss, weakness/numbness in my legs and high protein levels in my blood.

My journey as a myeloma warrior began in 2012 when I started to battle intense back pain which was more than excruciating. It was brutal! I fought with everything that was available. Pain tablets, injections, nothing helped. The pain rose above all that I could throw at it. In the days, I prayed for relief; there was none to be had. At nights, I rolled on the bed and fell unconscious at times because of the severity of the pain. These were the early years of my living with MM and they were the most challenging because I had to learn to fight and live with the pain 24/7. My fight centred around my wife, Sandra, who gave me the emotional strength needed, the doctors who saw to my well-being and friends of the Jamaica Multiple Myeloma Support Group who provided invaluable information along with their many prayers which bonded us together.

NOT MY DEMISE

Over the years, I have lost many friends and acquaintances to MM and for the life of me, I am unable to understand why they transitioned so quickly and why not me. I have been told that my greatest failing is that I expect persons to think and do as I do ... and that is true, as I do expect persons to fight as I do. I recall walking through the female ward of the Hope Institute when I was stopped dead in my tracks by a patient who was staring vacuously into space with utter and total despair written on her face. It is an expression that I will never forget as for one brief moment, with time standing still and with empathy washing over me, her expression strengthened my resolved that cancer would not be my demise.

Over the years, I have found out that it is not possible for anyone to start and complete such a journey without having a support system and talking to God on a daily basis. I have learnt to live one day at a time, make myself comfortable with pain medication, block everything I deem unimportant and do as my wife and primary caregiver dictate. It is a skill not easily acquired.

Today, living with pain is my way of life and I am blessed to have the greatest supporter that anyone in my condition could ask for. Although I have suffered financially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally from this condition, I have learnt to laugh at my circumstances as I refuse to let MM rob me of the simple pleasures of life. I am so grateful for the smallest acts of kindness and for small favours given. As the Jamaica Multiple Myeloma Support Group observes March as Myeloma Awareness Month, I share my story in the hope that it will provide insight and hope to those in a similar position. I have beaten the odds and will continue to do so as a myeloma warrior.