Updated: Wednesday, 08 Oct 2008, 5:59 AM EDT
Published : Friday, 16 Nov 2001, 11:12 PM EST
(New Haven-WTNH, Nov. 16, 2001 11:15 PM ) _ This is a story that will truly touch you --- because the man behind the story inspires us each and every day here at News Channel 8. Dr. Mel has been battling a type of cancer for the past five years. Here's his personal story of Surviving the Storm.
Five years ago, I shared some personal news with you that has since defined my life.
November 4th 1996: "I often joke about not having vacation since high school, but that's about to change. Vacation, it's being thrust upon me by a diagnosis of doctors saying I have multiple myleoma."
It attacks the bone marrow cells, breaks down bones, and affects the immune system. Those diagnosed with the disease are given a life expectancy of just 33 months.
In the past five years I've had fractures in many of my vertebrae, and I've shrunk five inches because of the vertebrae collapse. But this isn't a story of pain. This is a story of hope.
The Yale Cancer Center has become my home away from home. I call it my health club. I'm here two or three times a week. My nurse, Kelly, is setting me up for an infusion of aredia, which helps protect my bones from the cancerous plasma that this disease generates.
"Dr. Cooper is Dennis when I feel good, otherwise he's known as Dr. Cooper."
He's been treating me since the beginning. We click because we communicate well. Dr. Cooper says there is no time to feel defeated after a diagnosis of a terminal disease.
"There's been several advances both in the supportive care in terms of protecting the bones with the medication your receiving now, the aredia."
And it's also important for patients to be aggressive and seek out the very latest treatments.
"This is a new era where physicians are not the only ones with information," Dr. Cooper said. "I remember when you came to me with an article from USA Today. We looked into and we eventually did that treatment."
My condition had been relatively stable until early this year when additional fractures occurred in my back That's when Dr. Vincent DeVita, the head of the Yale Cancer Center, persuaded me and my wife, Arlene, to try trial treatments at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
These trial treatments are vigorous and demanding. The particular trail I am involved with has one potential side effect and that is irregular heart rhythms."
Later in the day, I'm getting prepped for a bone marrow biopsy. At these trials cancer patients are treated with new drugs well in advance of when they would otherwise be available.
"The new drugs that are now available -- and you know it so well because you're currently on and receiving one that's helping you a great deal -- but these new medicines are able to inhibit the growth of the myleoma cell not only by directly acting against it but also by interrupting the way it moves into and grows in the bone marrow neighborhood," Dr. Anderson said.
Besides seeking out the best treatments, there are other aspects of my voyage that have made a difference.
Travelling to Boston once a month also means returning to my own roots and meeting up with my mother and sister. When cancer happens it affects the entire family. Of course, one really does need an advocate through it all in my case, there has been my wife by my side.
"Mel was awful sick and he needed someone to speak for him and to help him when he wasn't feeling well," says Arlene, "and it was so wonderful for me to be there because I didn't want to be away from him."
And support from my extended family, the prayers and good wishes of those who watch what I do everyday.
"Dear Dr. Mel: I was sorry to learn of your illness."
"Dear Dr. Mel: "You've been a part of my life many years. I have multiple myleoma too."
With that energy, how could I not feel strong and determined?
Yale Cancer Center
Dana Farber Cancer Institute