There are approximately 40,000 people diagnosed with a rare cancer every year. So often we forget that every one of those 40,000 sufferers has a life filled with friends and family, and there is a person struggling to find treatments for their disease. This is one of their stories.

Anita Handing

I was asked to share my cancer journey and tell my story by my wonderful friend and my oncology nurse Amy Lawton. I didn’t hesitate to say yes because I have so much gratitude in my heart for all the UCH (Yampa Valley) doctors, nurses, lab techs and many others that have supported me during my cancer journey. I am also grateful to the PSL Blood Cancer Center in Denver and MD Anderson Cancer Research Hospital in Houston, TX. Without these amazing institutions and their staff, I might not be here to write this today.

My journey began in August of 2014, when I was diagnosed with smoldering multiple myeloma. I began treatment in September 2014 at YVMC and in 2015 sought out a second opinion at MD Anderson. At that point I was in some denial as to my diagnosis, because I felt fine. I was given several treatment options or to just watch and wait. After 7 months of drug treatments, I took a break from it because I felt that I was doing OK. But, the multiple myeloma was weakening my vertebrae to the point that in July of 2016 I developed severe back pain and by August I could barely walk. I was later diagnosed with ten vertebral compression fractures in my thoracic spine. I felt helpless: my life was unraveling since I could no longer do all the recreational endeavors I loved, such as tennis, golf, gardening and my passion, teaching and taking yoga classes. I started a difficult treatment regime of chemotherapy drugs, while I laid in bed feeling sorry for myself. I called on my religious faith to try and keep me strong, as well as the love of my two daughters and husband. The days ahead were filled with doubt that I would get through this journey and eventually come out stronger physically and mentally. Without the support of my many oncology nurses and doctors and the new medications and treatments that were being approved, I would not have been able to face the monthly treatments, PT, and two kyphoplasty back surgeries that gave my family and I hope. 

After 5 years of maintenance immunotherapy infusions, I was informed that I would be able to discontinue my infusions because I was now in stable remission. I would like to share my over-abundance of gratitude with all my care givers over the past 8 years for this outcome.

None of this would be possible without the many clinical trials and dedicated health professionals and researchers who are on the verge of finding a lasting cure for multiple myeloma, just as they are working on cures for many other rare cancers. I ask that all cancer patients remain strong, have faith, courage and never give up, having hope that cures will be found for uncurable cancers. None of us know what the future may hold for us, but be reassured that there is always hope for the best possible outcome. With the help of generous, giving and compassionate individuals, you will make all the difference for every patient living with rare and often incurable cancer.

Namaste and God Bless