Family finds hope while battling disease

Maddie Hunter
Guest Column

Maddie Hunter
Guest Column

Yesterday, a news release came across the listserv mail group that I read religiously. The headline: "Origin of Multiple Myeloma Found in Rare Stem Cell" (Blood Online; November 2003).

At first I approached the text with mild curiosity, and my usual dose of skepticism. How many times have I heard that scientists are close to a cure? Have scientists really found the source of the illness that has ravaged my father’s once vital, energetic body?

I read the article, with disbelief at first, then with increasing excitement. According to this new discovery, the culprit of my dad’s myeloma is a rare stem cell.

My mind raced. This discovery implies that scientists will be able to more accurately target investigation of treatment possibilities. I couldn’t wait to call my dad.

At age 87, my father is quite ill after fighting this disease for years, but I couldn’t help imagining him walking out of that nursing home one day soon. Hearing my voice on the phone, his tone softened and he asked how I was doing.

After I told him about the stem cell discovery, he responded by saying, "This is great news for you." "

No," I said, "this is for you. You know the time from lab to bedside is quite fast. …"

He interrupted, reminding me of his frailty and doubting that he would be able to benefit from what will come of the discovery. He said how relieved he was to know that there would be hope for me.

As I hung up the phone, tears overtook me and I wished I could give my dad the gift of time. We myelomics mostly say that we are hanging on, trying one treatment after another. We comment that with every six months there will be new treatment options. The myriad of research avenues being pursued will surely lead to a cure — in time.

Whether either of us is to have more time is yet to be known, but as we hold that wish for one another, I realize we have indeed shared the perfect gift this year.

I wish for my father to come home, vital and energetic again. He wishes, like he has since the day I was born, to keep me safe.

Maddie Hunter is a resident of Metuchen