About 7 years ago, one of the people I work with in the Weather Department discovered he had cancer. Dr. Mel Goldstein, known by everyone as Dr. Mel, had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. Mel had discovered his disease after back pain from a car accident just wouldn’t go away.
Today, Mel and his wife Arlene threw a party. They have a home right on Long Island Sound just east of New Haven. The weather was perfect, making their view of the Sound even better. Long Island was clearly visible on the horizon.
I remember going to Mel’s home right after he found out what he had. I was with Jeff Bailey, our webguy at the station. We went to install a PC at Mel’s house so he could track the weather from home. We hooked up the computer and a modem and then proceeded to show him how to search using Google. This was a while ago and not nearly as many people were web savvy.
We reached the site of the Multiple Myeloma Society. It was a good first example, because Mel and his wife were desperate for information. We all read along silently, not realizing that the page contained a reference to the average time from discovery to mortality – how long someone normally lived after finding out he had multiple myeloma.
I don’t remember the number, except it was was under 1,000 days.
Obviously, Dr. Mel has outlived those projections. This is not to say the disease hasn’t taken a toll, because it has. Not only has he lived with the specter of death, but also the physical pain caused by the cancer’s effect on his bones.
He has lost 6-7″ in height and walks with a cane. At the station, we’ve installed a ramp to allow him to reach the studio floor easily. At home, a small motorized chair saves him from walking the stairs to the second floor. I know he is in pain each and every day.
Today’s party was to celebrate another milestone in living beyond anyone’s expectations. But this is not a story of luck. He is alive because of his own persistence. Dr. Mel became his own best advocate for care. Though not a medical doctor, he became an expert on multiple myeloma and was able to help his physicians guide his own treatment.
Without dedication, Mel would be dead. If he had given up, gone through the motions with his cancer treatment, he would be dead. But he chose not to die. He chose to aggressively fight.
There is no cure for multiple myeloma right now. There is therapy which is working. How long this fire hose treatment will keep the flames down is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, today was worth celebrating.