Thursday, May 14, 2015

Arghhh. How do we describe our disease.

I've put a lot of thought into the meaning and impact of Tom Brokaw making the talk show circuit to discuss his battle with multiple myeloma and to promote his book. Maybe I've put too much thought into it.  He says he wrote the book to help other families who are faced with the harrowing diagnosis of cancer.  I have not read his book, so I can't really speak to it.  I did watch his hour long show on Dateline and now have watched him on the Daily Show and Jimmy Fallon.

Before I write anything else, let me say that this is a total brain dump.  I'm torn. It's awesome that he is raising awareness for MM and bringing attention to the disease and its impacts. That's all great.  But for crying out loud, please Mr Brokaw describe the disease and your challenges accurately.

You know when you are thinking about something and you're not necessarily bothered by it, but as you think about it, you convince yourself that you are pissed.  I'm debating in my own head if I'm really bothered by his inaccurate description of the disease or if I've bothered because it's part of my shtick.  Maybe my feelings are hovering somewhere between ambivalence, righteous indignity, inspiration and envy.

On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart called MM a back cancer. Brokaw agreed. On both Fallon and the Daily Show, Brokaw says he is in remission and leaves it at that. On one show he quickly mentioned maintenance chemo.  But come on!!  We all know that myeloma is a cancer that keeps on giving. It's not curable. Maintenance chemo, while easy in the scheme of things, is still chemo. Our immune systems are crap and getting an infection is something that a MM patient really needs to avoid.  He never mentions the struggles of fellow patients. He never indicates (again I haven't read his book) that the inspiration and motivation and support from fellow patients is absolutely the most amazing gift from this disease. I've gotten to know some fantastic people.  But thousands and thousands of people die every year from the disease. Remission, partial remission, complete response, partial response.... all something we desire.  But achieving these goals by no means is a green light to kick back and not worry that any day or any month could be when the myeloma kicks back in with a vengeance. 

To me, if Mr Brokaw were to talk about all the challenges he still faces, while he still is living life, raising awareness and doing what he does...this would be a much more powerful and inspirational message.

I'm fortunate.  But I know others who are really facing challenging circumstances right about now.  A mention of the thousands who are struggling would be helpful.  I think what makes myeloma challenging (just speaking about the cancer I know) is that years go by and we are always dealing with it.  People around me forget.  I look fine, I act fine, blah, blah, blah.  I get a week break between my chemo dates. Those weeks are heaven. I work out, I stay up late(r), and there are times during that week off that myeloma doesn't really come to mind.  But I can honestly say, there is probably a moment every single day when I lean back in my chair and have this overwhelming tiredness that feels quite different than tiredness I felt before catching cancer.  It's a tired that comes from deep inside my temples, like they want to squeeze my eyes shut.  Hard to describe. But it passes and I move on.

So, back to the topic at hand....I know during a several minute interview that Tom Brokaw can't say all this. But please, I wish he would at least say what the cancer is more accurately and what his challenges are now.  Put me on Jimmy Fallon and I'll talk about the disease and play beer pong with Jimmy. I jealous or envious that I'm not getting attention for meeting my challenge? Maybe that's it.  Who knows.

One last thing,  I don't go around telling people about my cancer and what I'm dealing with. As I was writing this, a friend sent me a text saying that perhaps Brokaw doesn't want pity. He wants to portray strength and that's what he is showing people.  The myeloma won't get him down.  That alone is a great message and inspiring.  I get that. Maybe I'm totally off base with my complaints. I better rethink my message.

Anyways, that is all I have.  Please feel free to respond.

1 comment:

  1. Complicated. He does a better job in his book. Admits its been hard. Probably too soon for him to be giving interviews about it. I agree with you, Matt; you'd do a better job!


Berenson Oncology Success Rate

 Some reading about my myeloma specialist's success rate. A press release and an article from Targeted Oncology.