Still going strong, eight years later

By Lindsay Bosslett

April 3, 2007, is a date Pat Killingsworth will never forget.

“I had been living with bone pain for a while—doctors thought I might have Lyme disease,” Pat, then 51 years old, remembers. “Then I sneezed in the shower and broke one of my vertebrae—that, of course, warranted a trip to the ER and some more tests. On April 3, my doctor told me I had multiple myeloma. At first, I was just confused. I’d never heard of it; I thought it was something like multiple sclerosis.”

As it turns out, multiple myeloma (MM) is a cancer that attacks the plasma cells (see more here). And Pat was no newcomer to cancer—his wife, Pattie, had had her own bout with cancer back in 1996, and today she is a survivor. “I knew, because of seeing how hard she fought, that I had no choice but to fight hard, too,” Pat says.

While there is currently no cure for MM, it can be treated effectively. In fact, after undergoing radiation and systemic treatments with chemotherapy and steroids, Pat went into a remission that lasted for three years. The MM slowly crept back in 2011, and today, regular chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant has been keeping his MM manageable.

Because of how much cancer has impacted their lives—even their rescue dog, Finnegan, is a cancer survivor!—the Killingsworths have dedicated their lives to helping other cancer patients and survivors learn to cope with their diseases. Pattie works with cancer patients at a Florida dialysis clinic, and Pat, who had to leave his job in real estate, now devotes his time to writing books (he has four devoted to multiple myeloma, including his latest, Financial Aid for Myeloma Patients and Caregivers), blogs at multiplemyelomablog.com and he contributes a regular column to the Myeloma Beacon to help others with MM.

“I was told I only had four years, and here I am going on eight,” he says. “That’s one thing I would tell patients—it almost always gets better. When you’re diagnosed, you’re in a funk, you’re not thinking clearly and the therapy you do might make you feel sick. But living with MM is like riding a roller coaster—you have to ride out the highs and lows. These days it’s incredibly rare to not respond to treatment. It won’t be long until this becomes another chronic condition—something you can live with for decades and manage through medication. Every year they do more research and find better treatments, and every new discovery means your chances of survival go up exponentially.”

Pat’s tips for thriving with MM

Do your research. “Being a patient is a part-time job, even when it’s going well,” says Pat, who spends upward of 15 hours a week dealing with his MM, whether it’s going to treatments, speaking at seminars, researching or writing about the condition.

Take charge of your care. “I call my doctors my team, and I’m the general manager,” Pat says. “Remember that they work for you—you have to be the boss of your treatment. Research, listen to what your team has to say and what they advise—but you need to make the final decisions when it comes to your health and your life.”

Eat to help your body fight infection. “Before my diagnosis I was a vegetarian, but because MM causes me to retain water and lowers my blood cell counts, I switched back to eating meat and lowered the number of carbs I eat. A healthy diet isn’t going to cure anything, but it’s good to help your body do its job in fighting off cancer,” Pat says.

Keep moving. “I was active before getting cancer, and I’m still active now,” says Pat, who enjoys hiking and swimming. “It’s the only thing that keeps fatigue at bay.”

Follow your dream. “If it hadn’t been for MM, I never would have become a writer,” Pat says. “It’s definitely a silver lining. I finished my fourth book and am starting on my fifth. I love to write—I blog every day.”


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Still going strong, eight years later

 

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