As Frank’s wife and caregiver, I don’t know exactly where to begin. In October 2005, Frank was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, which is a type of blood cancer that has no cure. His diagnosis was purely coincidental, because he had no symptoms. We were simply updating our life insurance policy, which required Frank to submit to a physical examination and before we knew it, Frank was in the hospital diagnosed with Myeloma and fighting near kidney failure caused by the cancer.
The first oncologist who spoke with us told us he had five to eight years to live. She had the bedside manner of a toad, not very comforting at all. Frank’s sister Cruz, who also happens to be a doctor, recommended we get a second opinion and assisted us in getting a transfer to the City of Hope. We found that this hospital really lives up to its name. We noticed a difference in attitude right away. Frank was accepted into one of many trial studies the City of Hope has for his type of cancer. He went through several rounds of chemotherapy and had two stem cell transplants within a one-year period. We were on the cutting edge of accessing new drugs that have come out or will be available soon just for the treatment of Multiple Myeloma. These drugs are designed to control the disease and keep people in remission for longer periods of time, some as long as fifteen years. Frank’s doctors at the City of Hope were very optimistic and really cared about Frank’s physical and mental well being, which lends itself to the one very important matter…Get a second opinion! Your life may depend on it.
Well, that is the story of how cancer crept into our lives. In some ways, it is the beginning of how our life together has started all over again. As a couple, we don’t dwell on it. I’m sure Frank probably thinks about it all the time, but it doesn’t dictate to us what we will or will not do in life. We continue to move forward. Frank’s attitude and positive nature has carried us both through some very dark times as he took on his cancer. Sure there were tears, and rightfully so, he was entitled to them, we both were. Frank always felt I deserved an apology for his “moments.” Which never occurred to me. Frank’s nature is to place others first, especially me. I feel like I’m the luckiest woman in the world. During his sickest moments, when he couldn’t get out of bed or lift his head off his pillow, he would feel guilty as though somehow he was the cause for everything going on with him and in the next moment; he would be cracking jokes and laughing at himself. People have asked me how I have been able to deal with all of this. They comment about how strong I am. Well, I’m only as strong as Frank. We are a team. As a caregiver, I have a lot to do and a lot to think about. I always try to think ahead and to prepare for the “what ifs.” But what I have ultimately learned from this, is that I can prepare all I want, but I am not in control of the future. I have a strong belief in commitment. It goes back to those words…in sickness and in health. Frank is the most important person in my life and I would only be half the person I am now, if not for him. I want to see to it that he is not just taken care of, but that he does not have to worry about anything other than getting better and feeling healthy.
Frank is now in complete remission and he is back to work driving a truck. This has changed us in many ways that I can’t explain or find words for. Frank is much more outgoing, even speaking in public now, which is something, he never would have done in the past. He is eager to share his experience with others and to educate them the importance of early detection. Our time with the Los Angeles Police Cancer Support Group has been invaluable. We have developed life long friendships with some very special people.
Frank always tells me that he is a lover, not a fighter. Well, I will tell you differently. Frank is a fighter too, because he’ll never allow this disease to overrun him or our life together. He has an incredible will to get better and to live. He is my hero.