Creating a Game Plan to Manage a Tough Blood CancerMyeloma MVPApril 2020By: Myeloma Explained Staff
For anyone who's heard the devastating news of a serious diagnosis, Rod Gilmore’s reaction may seem familiar. In 2016, the college football analyst and lawyer went in for his annual physical. Other than the fact his distance running had slowed slightly, there were no signs anything was wrong. But about a week later, his physician called Gilmore back in for an urgent meeting.
"You have cancer," he told Gilmore. "Your life is going to change dramatically."
Gilmore was diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma. Not only was the news a complete shock, but the uncertainty of what that meant for his life was overwhelming. He worried about how to tell his wife, Marie, of 31 years and their two adult children. He had no idea if he could continue his busy professional life, working both as a lawyer and as a college football analyst and broadcaster with a major sports network.
When Gilmore did gather up the nerve to tell Marie, she looked at him, and said, “It’s going to be ok. Let’s get to work.”
Gilmore did just that. “I began learning all I could to better understand the disease and get a sense of what I might expect,” he says.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that originates in the bone marrow. It typically affects people who are at least 65 years old, and is slightly more common in men than women. African Americans are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease as white Americans.
Unlike some cancers, multiple myeloma and its treatment are characterized by cycles of remission and relapse, which means patients can be on and off different treatments over several years. This makes having a plan and a support team critical to navigating this complex disease over time.
For Gilmore, having that plan has made all the difference in helping him and his family cope. It made such a difference, he wants to share that message with others who may be in a similar position. So, he teamed up with Amgen Oncology as part of the Myeloma MVP team. Myeloma MVP is a national initiative that aims to help patients communicate with their doctor and support team and develop a personal strategy for managing their disease.
While Gilmore notes every multiple myeloma patient’s journey is different and they should talk to their doctors before making decisions about activity level and diet, he shares some of the strategies that have been helpful to him.
Form a support team: Gilmore stresses the importance of an extended team. “Not only did I team up with my doctor, I made sure my family, friends and community were also involved in case I needed advice or support,” he shares.
Ask questions and talk openly with your healthcare team: Gilmore says, initially, learning about multiple myeloma was like “drinking from a firehose.” He connected with a patient research and advocacy organization to learn as much as he could and asked his doctors a lot of questions. “It’s been important for me to be able to speak openly with my healthcare team about my priorities and concerns. It allowed us to work together,” Gilmore says.
Create a routine: Gilmore’s mindset is focused on staying in control of his life and “not conceding a day.” He says, “I learned that establishing a routine, particularly around treatment days, was important for me in terms of my mental outlook and how I feel physically. Everyone’s routine will look different, but mine includes exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated.”
Embrace a sense of purpose: Not everyone with an illness feels comfortable discussing it. But for Gilmore, he quickly discovered these conversations could be a force of good. For example, he noticed that many of his male friends were neglecting their annual physicals. And yet, after talking to Gilmore, they were inspired to schedule that doctor’s appointment. This ability to inspire others gives him a sense of purpose. As part of this, Gilmore also serves as a board member for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Talk to your oncologist for more information on treating and managing multiple myeloma.