At the end of the summer of 2017, Cheryl Scott, a vivacious woman, was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
Scott was used to taking change in stride and always found a way to make the best of any situation. Her life had some predictability with a few surprises along the way. Since 1988, she has worked at a federal government agency in an administrative position. In 1992, Scott became a first-time mom.
“Raising a son on my own led to some stress and anxiety,” Scott said.
It led her to some soul searching about her work life.
“I needed an outlet from my daily routine and a way to make ends meet,” she said. From 2006 to 2012, Scott found her passion in the radio industry. She worked on the weekends as a radio engineer, producer and host of her own show “Fantabulous Entertainment” in Los Angeles.
Just before the radio show career ended, Scott had been taking on part-time work as a stage play and voice-over actor, and performing some background work on TV and film projects.
“A few years working on the acting side of the entertainment industry, I felt weak and tired,” Scott said. “It got progressively worse but I was told I was anemic and may need iron.”
Years later, in June 2017, Scott’s health started to change and threw her for a loop.
“I would suffer from severe fatigue, shortness of breath and nerve pain,” Scott said. “I would have numbness, tingling and pain on the right side of my body from my breast, underneath my right arm around to my right shoulder blade, right leg and foot.”
The symptoms were constant.
“The doctor ordered blood work and it was discovered I was severely anemic but my iron level was fine,” Scott said. “To investigate the cause, I was hospitalized, given blood transfusions and a medical team continued to test me for six days.”
About 10 days after she was discharged, Scott learned she had multiple myeloma cancer stage III.
“It was the first time hearing of this disease,” she said.
Although it is rare, multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 out of 161 people in the United States will develop the disease at some point. The society projects that in the United States about 30,770 new cases will be diagnosed and 12,770 deaths are expected to occur in 2018. No cause is known.
As explained by the Mayo Clinic, multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell, which helps fight infections by making antibodies to recognize and attack germs.
The Cancer Treatment Centers of America states the staging process for multiple myeloma is determined by the blood cell counts, the amount of protein found in the blood and urine, the calcium level in the blood and other diagnostic test results. In stage III multiple myeloma, the number of myeloma cells is considered high.
The various signs and symptoms of multiple myeloma can range from none during the early stages to bone pain, nausea, constipation, loss of appetite, mental fogginess or confusion, fatigue, frequent infections, weight loss, leg weakness or numbness and excessive thirst.
Unfortunately, people can get the disease without having any of the risk factors. Studies show that the risk factors that may affect an individual’s chances to get multiple myeloma are age, gender, race and radiation exposure.
Other factors include family history (it may run in the family causing an immediate family member’s likelihood to be four times higher), workplace exposure and obesity. None of the known risk factors can be attributed to Scott.
Three days after Scott was diagnosed, she began weekly chemotherapy treatments.
“My doctor placed me on indefinite medical leave in order to pursue aggressive treatment,” she said. “I’ve completed the initial several rounds of chemotherapy treatment and will need more rounds of chemotherapy, 3-4 times stronger than the last series, in preparation for my stem-cell bone marrow transplant.”
“This series of treatments will completely take out what is left of my hair, leave me extremely sick and fatigued, but I’m ready to win this battle,” Scott said.
Earlier this month, Scott stayed in the hospital for four days of stem-cell collection and harvesting known as apheresis, a medical technology in which the blood of a person is passed through an apparatus that separates out one particular constituent and returns the remainder to the circulation.
“The next step is to receive a bone marrow transplant and second series of chemotherapy,” she said. “When I am finished, I will be on bed rest during recovery period.”
Scott will be the first to admit how fast life can change.
“This is the most challenging time of my life, in every way,” she said. “Because my immune system is compromised due to the chemotherapy treatments and to prevent me from picking up any viruses, I don’t go outside of my home unless necessary. I have approached my condition with a positive outlook and try not to focus on the negative.”
American Cancer Society – www.cancer.org
Cancer Treatment Centers of America – www.cancercenter.com
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute – www.dana-farber.org
Mayo Clinic – www.mayoclinic.org
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for her column in The Wave.