By Jennifer Ahlstrom | Posted - Aug 23rd, 2016

 

 

 

 

An Essay By Myeloma Survivor Cherie Rineker: Incurable Diseases, Incurable People

cherierinekerCherie Rineker was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. After six months of every possible test, horrific bone pain, and anemia so severe that she could barely make it up the stairs to her apartment, this former triathlete and health nut found out she was in the last stage of Multiple Myeloma, an incurable, yet treatable cancer. Today, almost four years later, she is still battling the cancer, but that has not stopped her from bringing awareness to doctors and people all around the world with her book "A Pilgrimage Without End, How Cancer Healed my Broken Heart"(choose CrowdCare Foundation as your preferred charity on Amazon Smile for funds to be donated to the Myeloma Crowd)

I recently received a message from a friend of mine that got me thinking about all the advice I have been given since diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Please don’t be offended by his rather outrageous declaration, I wasn’t. “Dear Cherie, stop telling yourself that you have cancer, instead, declare that you are completely healed! Not in the future, but RIGHT NOW!! Remember, there are no incurable diseases; only incurable people.” Of course his assumption was that I had not been saying these things for years, when in fact, I had once believed this too! In dealing with cancer I have tried lots of remedies. Unfortunately, it seemed that no amount of vitamin C, D, CoQ 10, fish oils and turmeric, was able to bring my numbers down. I took garlic, lots of garlic! It was wonderful for keeping people away, but it did not keep the cancer away. A very concerned client sold me a drink once, and guaranteed me it would cure me. She seemed so sincere and caring that I tried it. This was at the beginning of my diagnosis and I was willing to do anything, and pay anything, to get better. She told me to give the drink three months. I religiously drank it three times a day. The bottle was 29 dollars, and I went through it in about three days. My numbers stayed the same, and I did not feel any better or worse from taking it. Three months, and almost 900 dollars later, I told her it really had not helped me at all. She responded that I should be drinking a bottle a day. She was in tears! She wanted to see me better, and she knew her drink would cure me. I told her I did not have the money for a bottle a day.” How much is your life worth to you, your children, and your husband?” She asked in a rather accusatory tone! I told her that, if she believed it would absolutely heal me, and she cared so much about my welfare, she could provide me with the bottles I needed until the cancer was gone. I promised that when this would happen, I’d happily pay her back all the money for the bottles, and give her a 5000-dollar bonus on top of it! Interestingly enough, I never heard from her again. Looking back, I am afraid the tears she shed weren’t for me, but rather due to her loss of income. As sad and horrible as it may sound, people do take advantage of the sick. I would be rich if I had gotten a dollar for every well-meaning piece of advice I have gotten. Here are just some of the things people have recommended. I am not saying some of the advice hasn’t been beneficial for a healthy life, but to tell a cancer patient that what they are doing is wrong, is not helpful at all. One man asked me if I owned a dog. I said yes. I have a sweet little dog named Coco. Without hesitation he said, “Get rid of it!” I am not joking! He said it with a straight face! Told me he read it in some book. The last thing I read was that pets are actually a good thing for the sick and elderly! Get rid of your root canals, get rid of your fillings. Get rid of your teeth!? I am not joking; I have heard them all. I am not saying that root canals are the best things to have in your mouth, but to just go ahead and start pulling teeth, all in the hopes of seeing the cancer disappear, is a leap of faith I am not willing to take at this moment. I never minded losing my hair, but me… without a smile … I am just not ready to go there yet. Quality over quantity, right? Just stay positive! One of my favorites. Just, JUST!! How do you just stay positive when you can’t even roll over in bed! When you are permanently stuck with nausea so severe that nothing helps. Sure, I know that being positive is important, but feeling that you must, or else … is actually very depressing and stressful and makes it much more difficult to just be positive. Chemo kills. Great! Thanks for reminding me of that as I am receiving this toxic medicine that keeps me alive. Heck, I used to think this until chemo and radiation were the only thing that was going to keep me alive. God never gives us more than we can handle. I love this one, like God actually handed me cancer. What has God given You lately? Of course the one that baffled me most was when my mother literally told me: “Stop this nonsense, you don’t have cancer!” Sure Mom, as I am sitting on my bed, listening to you on the other side of the phone, my head bald from my second stem cell transplant, I am surely faking it! I went through all these horrible treatments just to try and get your love and sympathy. And look, even that didn’t work! So when my friend told me that there are no “incurable” diseases, only “incurable” people, I decided to tell him the conclusions I had come to. “My dear friend, cancer feels like having a terrorist in my body, holding a hand grenade with its safety lever released, ready to explode at any time. What to do about this terrorist is a choice that is always up to me. Oh, how I wish I had somebody smarter than me, telling me what to do. My oncologist merely suggests me my treatment options. I know not everybody agrees with my decisions. Having to make these life or death decisions is indeed a heavy load, something I wish I did not have to make. People come with all kinds of suggestions. Though I believe they are well meant they do not help me much. Please know, I have tried everything that is out there and that I could afford! I live as healthy as I can, both physically and spiritually, and I do believe it plays a strong part in my well-being, as does the medicine and the chemo. When you tell me there are no incurable diseases, only incurable people, what do you really mean? I believe cancer helped to “cure” me from years of emotional suffering due to my parent’s abuse. I was “cured” from a lack of self-worth because I thought that if my parents did not believe in me, surely nobody else did. I was “cured” from a sense of loneliness because I never felt I belonged anywhere, and I found deep friendships in my support groups. You see, if I had been cured from cancer right away, I am not sure I would have been cured from these things. Nor do I think my presence would have helped others as much if, after just a couple of treatments, the cancer would have gone into complete remission. You know, many of us think we know the answers, and we want things a certain way. What we don’t realize is that by wanting things our way, and forcing things our way, we might be missing out on a whole bunch of very valuable lessons. I learned to make life sweet again, precisely because of my run-in with cancer, and other difficult life situations. Today, I realize that the best way to Love and embrace life is to accept all things life brings us. To surrender to its toughest teachers. When we stop fighting them, and see the opportunities they offer us, they no longer have us paralyzed by fear. Instead, we can come to appreciate the lessons they teach us. It took a lot of grieving and letting go of old ideas to get to where I am today. In going through this process, I found out that letting go opened me up to a whole new world of fresh ideas. And that has brought me to a much better place in life, cancer and all.      

 
Jennifer Ahlstrom
About the Author

Jennifer Ahlstrom - Jenny A - Myeloma survivor, patient advocate, wife, mom of 6. Believer that patients can help accelerate a cure by weighing in and participating in clinical trials. Founder of Myeloma Crowd, Myeloma Crowd Radio, HealthTree and the CrowdCare Foundation.

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