In dealing with Multiple Myeloma the focus stays pretty much on the cancer. But there are a lot of secondary issues that victims of the cancer must confront. As I write this I’m trying to not think about the pain in my sternum and spreading under my rib cage. My doctors calls it nephrotic syndrome and it amounts to me holding fluids instead of expressing them through the urinary tract. Basically, there are small perforations in my kidneys large enough to pass proteins into my urine, but not quite big enough to let blood through. But no matter, my kidneys aren’t working the way they’re supposed to and I’m starting to bloat. It began as edema in my feet, and has slowly progressed upwards through the legs, the abdomen and is now just reaching my chest. Fluid is filling the pleura, the membrane containing the lungs, so my breathing is being affected. Frankly, it’s kind of spooky.
Renal failure is not uncommon in Multiple Myeloma cases, but usually it is a function of paraprotein secretions that clog the organs, such as the kidneys. The way to deal with the problem varies by the type of kidney failure. Nephrotic syndrome isn’t the sort of thing that is easily treated and it goes away. It can stick with you for months or even years, and in some cases for the rest of one’s life. It may involve dialysis or even a kidney transplant. But with the kidneys malfunctioning, the body starts to go septic because it isn’t cleansed by the normal body functions. I had thought myself immune from such problems, being a non-secretor. But there are lots of different kinds of proteins in the body, some good and some not. And it’s bad news when proteins that are supposed to be in one place end up in another.
Of course, when the body isn’t functioning properly, the immune system is further compromised. I say further because an aspect of Multiple Myeloma is reduced immunity. Infection more easily invades the body, and with the results one might expect. At the moment, I am also dealing with a serious case of the sweats and I had to take a break in typing between the paragraphs here because I have the chills. Kinda difficult to type when you’re shaking.
The most common collateral issue in Multiple Myeloma is pneumonia. Quite a few of those in mortality statistics perish because of pneumonia, although the end responsibility is given to the cancer. Sensible, if it weren’t for the cancer, the pneumonia wouldn’t be so likely. Then too, the body can”t fight off the infections because of the reduces immunity, usually signaled by anemia. As of yesterday my blood numbers looked excellent, but infection progression can be swift, especially in bodies with compromised immunity. It makes for a vicious circle. After my appointment with the doctor yesterday, I was given a sterile jug and told to collect urine for 24 hours. This will allow the lab to do a workup that shows a more complete picture of the situation, more likely revealing proteins that could easily slip by in a single urination sample.
As well as the effect of feeling greater pain, and feeling physically ill, there is an emotional component. I don’t mind saying this is a frightening experience. Renal issues are no small matter and can, as mentioned, be a starting point from which discomfort speeds to a life threatening situation. Reading about my woes on the Internet only serve to make it worse, filling me in on all of the details for every little thing that can go wrong.
Of course, the last thing my doctor said was that he’d see me back again at the end of the month, which is a reassuring statement. It’s a lot easier to hear than being told to stay in touch and come back tomorrow.