Special Guest Post by Survivor, Lisa Maiden-Howard
“Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that develops in the plasma cells found in the soft, spongy tissue at the center of your bones, called bone marrow. Plasma cells are a type of white blood cell responsible for producing antibodies which are critical for maintaining the body’s immune system. Through a complex, multi-step process, healthy plasma cells transform into malignant myeloma cells. Normal plasma cells develop into malignant plasma cells through a multistep process. When plasma cells become malignant, they grow out of control, dividing rapidly. Soon, there are too many malignant cells, and they begin to crowd out normal cells in the bone marrow. Malignant plasma cells may invade the hard outer part of the bone and then spread into the cavities of the large bones in the body and form a tumor. When only one tumor is formed, it is called a solitary plasmacytoma. When multiple small tumors are formed, the disease is multiple myeloma”.- www.themmrf.org
In December of 2013, I was rushed to the ER. After many tests and a hospital stay of 11 days, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. I was told I had 98% cancerous plasma cells in my body. Although this disease had totally taken ME by surprise... I know that God was not in the least bit surprised...and in this I found comfort. My God is BIGGER than any cancerous plasma cells in my body no matter how rapidly they multiply. My God is STRONGER than any thoughts of doubt that the devil sent my way. My God is able to do all things...including HEALING ME! I knew HE was up to something and HE chose ME to be a vessel for HIM to complete HIS mission. Even though this was a VERY challenging road, I always believed THIS SICKNESS IS NOT UNTO DEATH AND I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH!
Within days of being diagnosed, my oncologist referred me to the University of Chicago to be a part of a clinical trial. This trial, which would last 22 months, would involve chemo, a stem cell transplant and then another round of chemo. The first round of chemo, which lasted 4 months, involved treatment twice a week, for three weeks in a row. I then went through a battery of tests to prepare my body for transplant, which included a high dose of chemotherapy, which caused me to lose my hair. This is when it became real to my husband and teenaged daughters. I explained to them that losing my hair means the chemo is working. The chemo is designed to attack any cells that are rapidly growing and unfortunately, it can’t tell the difference between rapidly growing cancer cells and rapidly growing hair cells. I reminded them of how God has seen us through on so many occasions and HE will NEVER leave us or forsake us.
Throughout my healing process, I ALWAYS felt the presence of the Lord. God comforted me in SO MANY WAYS. There were those who visited me in the hospital; those who brought meals to my home; those who picked me up from my home and drove me to chemo; those who sat with me during my chemo treatments; those who came to my house to visit me; those who sent flowers, gift baskets, edible arrangements and the like; those who sent books, cook books, CD’s, DVD’s, and other inspirational media; those who gave me t-shirts with catchy sayings and personalized PJ’s; those who came over and created a “girl’s night in” spa day; those who heard me mention something in passing and then showed up at my door with that very item; those who created and joined the FaceBook page “Laps for Lisa” and dedicated their daily workouts to me because I wasn't able to work out at the time; those who hired a chef to prepare a meal for my family; those who brought meals or came to my home and cooked; those who organized and supported a Zumba fundraiser; those who ran errands to Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco; those who organized and supported me with a pre-transplant party; those who came to my home and made themselves available to do whatever I needed; those who visited me in the hospital during my transplant; those who changed their FaceBook profile picture to a “thumbs-up” picture in support of me; those who organized and supported a standing room only fundraiser at the House Of Blues; those who sent me various gifts in the mail; those who came to my home and sang Christmas carols; those who brought awareness to Multiple Myeloma by participating in a 5K race and swabbing to Delete Blood Cancer; those who walked or ran races in my honor; and last but certainly not least, those who prayed fervently and sent scripture cards in the mail. I know, without a doubt, that all of these gestures were God’s way of comforting me and reassuring me that He will never leave me or forsake me.
Three months after the transplant, I started the second round of chemo which lasted another 13 months. Well after 4 blood transfusions, 27 days in the hospital, 62 blood draws, 110 chemo treatments, 7 bone marrow biopsies, 60 pounds of weight gained from steroids, and countless days of hot flashes, I completed my last cycle of chemo in October 2015. I was so excited to be done with chemotherapy, but my journey was different from others. Many cancer patients, when they finish their chemo treatments, hear those magical three words “YOU’RE IN REMISSION”. My testimony, however, is different. My doctor didn't say that. In fact, after all that I had been through, he said, “There are still signs of the disease in your body. There is less than one-tenth of a percent of cancerous cells remaining in your blood. Because of this, I can NOT say you are in remission.” WHAAAAT?!? I was stunned but I must admit, my faith was not shaken. From the beginning, when I was told I had 98% cancer in my body, I trusted God. I trusted Him through every transfusion, treatment, procedure, and biopsy so why should I stop trusting Him now. After all, He had already removed 99.9% of the cancer. Why should I doubt that he won’t remove the rest? I continued to live my life praising God and thanking him every day for my healing. I continued to see my doctor once a month and during each visit, I hoped to hear those three words. Months went by and that pesky one-tenth of a percent was still showing in my blood. I continued to encourage and uplift anyone and everyone I came in contact with. I looked for opportunities to be used by God. I kept my focus on HIM and after a while, I didn't think about what I wanted to hear from my earthly doctor because my heavenly doctor has already said: “by HIS stripes I AM HEALED”.
Well, seven months after my last chemo treatment, the medical science finally lined up with what I believed from the beginning. I was told that I AM CANCER FREE. Yes! I finally heard those three magical words “You’re In Remission.”
To God be the glory for the things He has done!
Lisa Maiden Howard
Lisa Maiden Howard is a married, stay at home mom of two from Chicago who holds a degree in English. She is also a brilliant testimony to strength, courage and grace through adversity. Thank you Lisa for your courage in sharing your story!
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