Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a type of bone marrow cancer arising from plasma cells, which are normally found in the bone marrow. Plasma cells form part of your immune system.
I’d not long joined the M4 Eastbound on Wednesday morning when Radio Four was abruptly silenced to be replaced by the melodic ringtone of my phone gently demanding my attention. When I looked at the cars display ‘Dad Mobile’ was there and I suddenly lost the ability to press the correct button on the steering wheel. It’s important to understand that I’m not new to hands free or indeed the set up in my beloved Octavia but my brain seemed to take a lifetime commanding my hand and for one reason only. This was to be the first time I’d spoken to him since learning on Monday evening from my Mother that the ongoing (severe) pain he’d been suffering in his back / ribs was being caused by multiple myeloma, or, in simple terms cancer.
Of course I knew that we’d speak but what would we talk about? After finding out on Monday night I sobbed to Rachel trying to work out what to say via text knowing he was in hospital, in pain and five hours away. We tend to talk most weeks (when the football seasons on) and spend most of our conversation discussing York City’s latest defeat with maybe the odd dip into real life, work, etc but never anything serious. A serious conversation between us is a rare event and we’ve managed to muddle through my 43 years avoiding them, think Father and Son ‘Men Behaving Badly’ and you won’t be far off (he even has Tony’s hair, well ok maybe 60% of Tony’s hair nowadays).
So as I drove along I spoke to him yet the voice was of someone that I almost didn’t recognise, if it’s possible to hear fear and pain I heard it. We spoke practically about treatment ‘options’ and plans like you would plans of a new car. I asked stupid questions about possible retirement and wondered if he’d ever be fit enough to own the canal boat he’s dreamt of at retirement. For eighteen minutes and thirty six seconds I was consumed with emotions the like of which I’ve never felt before. My Dad’s fit and healthy, he plays tennis, he watches what he drinks, he has salad for tea on a Saturday night for Christ’s sake. Every Saturday fucking night! He doesn’t get ill, he doesn’t take time off work, infact for as long as I’ve been on this planet he’s given his all to the same company and worked his way up. My Dad’s a good guy, and if I end up being half the Father for Noah he’s been for me then I can rest assured my boy will have a good laughter filled (shit football team supporting) life.
As I type this in another non de script hotel room somewhere outside of Oxford he’s in Weston Park hospital in Sheffield (hopefully resting) before another dose of radiotherapy tomorrow to zap the growth that’s impinging on his spinal cord causing immeasurable pain. As for prognosis he’s young (in myeloma terms) and certainly otherwise fit and healthy so it’s hoped that a fairly full on treatment regime of drugs and treatment of the stem cells can kick this disease squarely in the nuts, from what I understand the aim is to get it to plateau (as it can’t be ‘cured’) then monitor in the future.
The last word of the previous paragraph is my biggest fear, just what does the future hold now for my Dad, for my Mum, for all of us? Whatever it may be we’ll be there for him 24/7 as only a family can be. In his own words we’ve to ‘plan for the worst yet hope for the best’, he always has been a practical bugger…