Feeling Incurably Blessed: Ramae Hamrin's Myeloma Story
Ramae Hamrin's story:
In the spring of 2018, I was a single mother of three, working full-time as a high school math teacher. My left hip had been hurting for over a year, but I assumed that the decades of long-distance running were finally catching up with me.
But I was also more tired than usual, so I consulted with my primary physician and several alternative practitioners. Basic blood tests were always within the normal range, so we blamed the fatigue on the stress and long work hours of my teaching job.
Then one morning, I fell and fractured that sore hip. I was shocked to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma shortly afterward. Cancer was among my worst fears. I was only 47, and I wasn’t ready for my life to be disrupted so instantly and radically.
Once running several miles a day, I was now learning how to use a wheelchair. I spent the next couple of months away from home undergoing radiation, surgery, and weekly rounds of chemotherapy.
During that summer, a surgeon successfully implanted a titanium rod down the length of my femur so I would be able to walk before my stem cell transplant. I was elated to be walking again and hoped that regular exercise would make the transplant easier. Unfortunately, I had a pretty tough time and spent many of those days in the hospital. But I have remained in remission ever since.
The day after arriving home from the transplant, I adopted a labradoodle puppy. Ziggy quickly became my unofficial therapy dog. He got me off the couch and moving at a time I desperately needed some motivation.
Throughout my treatment, I wrote daily on CaringBridge to update friends and family. So after my transplant, I started a blog to do something that felt useful and cathartic as I physically and emotionally recovered. I called my blog Incurable Blessings because of the many ways I felt blessed despite an incurable diagnosis.
I don’t post on my blog nearly as much as I did those first couple of years, but I still enjoy writing and sharing my experiences with others. Plus, I learn so much from my readers, especially those whose lives have been affected by multiple myeloma.
No longer a math teacher, I now consider myself a freelance writer. My blog opened the doors to a gig writing articles for Blood-Cancer.com. It also led me to become a drug pricing advocate. Last year, I testified in several congressional hearings and committees about the horrendously high cost of oral blood cancer drugs.
I am no longer a busy mother either since my two daughters are now living away at college, and my son is a junior in high school. Their lives have not been too outwardly affected by my diagnosis, but we do talk often and openly. They are a large part of my support system.
Even though I write articles about living with blood cancer, I spend much more time not thinking about it. As much as possible, I do what makes me feel happy to be alive. I have taken photography, writing, drawing, and meditation classes, and I am now learning how to paint. I also love my walks, naps, and ice-cold showers.
People sometimes have a hard time believing me when I tell them that I am happier now than before myeloma. It’s not that I don’t experience the frustration, pain, and loss that comes with a cancer diagnosis, but I am so much more appreciative of all the good things and people in my life.
I feel like I got a second chance to look at life differently, let go of the need for control, and appreciate the little (but really, big) things. Ironically, it took the disease I feared the most to help me see that happiness was in my control all along. And for that, I do feel incurably blessed