My Myeloma Diagnosis Story
In November 2019 I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (MM). MM is a rare type of incurable blood cancer that often presents with musculoskeletal pain.
Over my preceding ten years in Osteopathy, I had developed a successful practice at The Lace Market Clinic and enjoyed my work. I was confident that I could help even my most complex patients if I could reduce the confusion and fear that surrounds so many painful symptoms. My confidence was based in, what I now recognise as, a foolish belief that almost everybody will get better. That confidence came back to bite me. I failed to spot the glaring red flags of my own pathology. I failed to identify the ‘hooves’ of my own zebra. I just thank God I was not my own patient!
My story starts in late summer 2019. I was in my early forties and life was good. Procrastination was at an all-time low and motivation at an all-time high. I decided to go on a diet. I lost 8kg in a couple of months. It was easy. I felt good, people were telling me I looked good. Both parents are alive with no trace of hereditary diseases. I’ve never smoked, I drink enough to be sociable without going over the top too often and I eat my vegetables. Business was good and our second child was due to be born which would complete the family unit.
Then the rib pain started. Initially I put it down to the change in my torso shape due to the success of my diet. I know this sounds crazy. It was. But how do patients normally describe bone pain? This is not something they teach you at Osteopathy school because there is no clear answer.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only Osteopath to miss Multiple Myeloma.
Since my diagnosis I’ve sought out the stories of undiagnosed MM patients presenting to osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors with what they believed to be musculoskeletal pain. These stories are not difficult to find. In one day, on one MM forum, I had 50 replies to the question “Did you present for manual therapy prior to being diagnosed and if so what happened?” Fortunately, there were some good stories where swift and appropriate referral was made but unfortunately, there are plenty of bad stories and in most of the bad cases the practitioner never found out which means the practitioner did not have the opportunity to learn from their mistake.
Newly diagnosed MM patients go straight into chemotherapy, often the next day. Any thoughts about the rib or vertebral fracture that the osteopath may have rubbed or squashed go straight out the window.
The bottom line is that pathological bone pain can be hard to spot but the red flags will often be there. I missed them. Perhaps I would have spotted them if I had shown a little more humility.
What am I doing now?
MM is incurable. My prognosis was 10 years at the start, in November 2019. We are hoping for longer but the clock ticks loudly in my ear. I am incredibly lucky to have a wife and a young family who love me. Lucy was 4 and Bill was born the day before I was diagnosed. My primary desire is to be the best father and husband I can be for the longest time possible.
I believe we learn most from the hardest things in life. I have an opportunity now to teach my children that there’s never a reason not to try your best. Part of being a good dad is being a role model who contributes to society. My osteopathy is a tool with which I can do that. I have therefore returned to my osteopathic work and I’ve bought a bicycle with the aim of both keeping as fit and strong as possible to help my fight against Myeloma but also to raise funds for Myeloma UK in the process.