You Are Not Alone
|Posted on April 27, 2016 at 4:45 PM|
By Caroline Madzivanyika Razunguzwa
This is my story below...my testimony of God's grace
I share about my experiences and encounters through the journey of pain as I battle myeloma. The UK Encarta dictionary defines a journey as an expedition somewhere or a process of development. I decided to call this story “my journey through pain to praise” as I find the past few years of my life have been a process of growth and development in so many aspects. It is a time that has natured my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual characteristics. As each day unfolds, my hope grows stronger and so does my trust in the Lord. I found peace and comfort in knowing that every journey that begins in our lives has a destination, which is the end of it all. As a Christian, I found peace and comfort in knowing that I was never alone on this journey. Once I understood that Christ himself laid down his life for me so that I can have it in abundance, hope became my weapon to victory. It’s the hope that whatever happens during this trying and testing time of suffering with the myeloma, I had a destination and either way, life or death, I still had victory.
My health problems started back in 2003 when I had kidney stones which resulted in me having percutaneous insertion of ureteric stent. I had recurring kidney stones in 2005 and my blood tests started showing some abnormalities thereafter. I had been getting various pains in my back, kidneys, legs and fatigue when I was finally referred to a haematologist, Dr Rachel Hall. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma early 2007 after intensive investigations and medical tests, including some bone marrow biopsy and MRI scans. When I was first told that I had multiple myeloma, I was devastated; I had never heard of myeloma until then. It was a bitter pill for me to swallow and I could feel my whole world collapsing around me. I remember crying myself to sleep that day.
I was terrified, but the more I feared the lesser I believed that I could make it. I now understand that faith and fear are parallels, they don’t operate in the same realm, one can never have both. I had to choose faith over fear but it did not come easy. It took some time for me to come to terms with the fact that I had cancer. I thank God for his mercies and grace. He always prepares us for anything that life throws at us. He surely holds my life in his hands. It is through these times that I have learnt the essence of prayer. It is in painful and tough times that I have come to understand and value the most important things in life, mostly relationships.
I suffered from severe bone pain and terrible head-aches. I had several pains that seemed to have no explanation or cause at the time. My consultant always called me mysterious or “a mystery”. At times I would worry, and then I would find comfort in the one word, mysterious, which she continues to use to this day. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, so yes, I started thanking God every time that this was said, knowing that My God is the God of impossible, and that which seemed mysterious and impossible with the doctors is very much possible with Him.
I started realising that each time that I was overwhelmed with fear, the hope of a future life ceased to exist and the thought of death and misery roamed in my mind. During the first weeks post diagnosis, I told and convinced myself that I was going to die. I saw all my hopes and dreams for a future fading before me. I was 27 and single, and having something incurable meant there was no hope for a family for me. I was told that myeloma was treatable but not curable, and that each individual case was unique. There was so much information for me to process. My life was never going to be the same again, and fear of the unknown was worse than the knowledge of having this kind of cancer.
Many thanks to my family for the unwavering love and support through this time. I received so much love and support and this carried me through the difficult times. It was because of love that I soon realised I had to accept my fate and believe that I could beat this cancer. I was married the next year (August 2008) to my amazing husband Chaapo who has lived his vows since the day we got married. Being married to my best friend gave me reasons to stay positive and fight for life. I had so much yet to be done, to be seen and to be experienced.
My immediate treatment started with oral bisphosphonates to strengthen my bones as I suffered with severe bone pain. I reacted to them and I was prescribed intravenous zoledronic acid once every four weeks. With Zoledronic Acid, I would have a bone-pain free month but a few days after the infusion I would struggle with terrible pain and fatigue. I was on this until October 2009 when I started on aggressive anti-myeloma treatment. I had 5 cycles of CTD (cyclophosphamide, thalidomide and dexamethasone), each cycle being 3 weeks long. Feeling sick and losing my hair was not as bad as the injections that I had to give myself every day- granulocyte-colony-stimulating factor (GCSF) to help with generating stem cells. I hate needles to this day. The steroids caused my muscles to ache badly and I was extremely tired most of the time. It is in those moments of weakness when we learn to value life and be grateful for each day that we are full of life and energy. In preparation to my high-dose therapy and stem cell transplant (HDTSCT), I had my stem cells harvested after the cycles. With each stage of the treatment came different challenges and obstacles. The first attempt at stem cell harvesting was not as successful as the side effects of the whole procedure got the best of me. The second attempt was great and we successfully managed to get more than enough for the stem cell transplant (SCT).
In May 2010, I had my first high dose chemotherapy and SCT. I went through what I thought was the worst 6 weeks of my life. As I checked into hospital for the most difficult weeks of my life, I joked with family and friends that I was going to Madagascar for holiday. I had a month to listen to my music, watch movies and worry about absolutely nothing but getting better. I lost all my hair, had sore mouth, puffed up face, achy muscles, no appetite (not that I “hated” hospital food) and diarrhoea. 6 months later, in November 2010, I had my second HDTSCT and went through the whole process again. After day 100 post HDTSCT I had my bone marrow aspirate done and was in partial remission. In 2011, I had bilateral hip transport decompression to relieve pain caused by avascular necrosis ( a loss of blood supply to the bone causing bone death). I had excruciating pain but I told myself it was temporary, and stayed positive.
In 2012, I was told that I had secondary ovarian failure due to the treatment I had and the endocrinologist told me I had 0% chance of having babies. I remember telling her I had faith and I believed I would one day hold my baby, to which she advised not to be too hopeful. Today, I stand in awe as I hold my 2 miracles from above. Hannah and Joel were born December 2014 and every time I look at them, I give praise for I know that they are a special gift and a reason for me to stay positive and fight this cancer. I live with pain but I have more words of praise than pain can define.
This journey is a journey through pain but I am grateful, I have come out of it richer. I have known love and joy like I have never known it before. I could never trade this journey for anything, for it is through this journey that I have become the person that I am today. I believe trials come but they make us strong. I have met beautiful people with hearts of gold along the journey. I could never thank Dr Hall and her team enough, they are all God sent. Myeloma has taken me from a place of pain, to a place of praise. I do not know what tomorrow holds but through faith, there is hope for tomorrow. I have been in partial remission for 5 years now and I am grateful for each and every day. I believe that each day that I wake up alive I have victory over myeloma. Waking up cancer free is not victory over it, living life to the fullest despite the pain and challenges it poses is greater victory.