I was 6 or 7 years old when the original Rocky movie came out. I’ve seen every one of them in the theater except for that first one. The Rocky franchise is part of the fabric of our country at this point and is as American as baseball and apple pie. Every movie is motivational and every movie teaches us something new. With Creed II being released, it seems like a good time to reflect on the very core of what makes Rocky so great to watch. Rocky is the underdog. He’s the guy who is just an ordinary person like us. He faces huge challenges and he finds a way to overcome them…. often after being beaten to the point where he wants to quit. The movies are generally feel good movies that inspire us to be a little better and to try a little harder. In my opinion, one of the best quotes from Rocky is this one:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
While that quote is generally great advice to just about anyone, it means more to the Myeloma patient AND their caregivers than most other people. This disease is tough. It’s going to bring you to your knees and keep you there…. sometimes even you refuse to let it. As a patient, you are going to have to get mentally tough because you are going to have to fight and fight and…… keep fighting even when there seems like you can’t. You are going to have to fight. You are going to have to learn everything you can so that you can make informed decisions and you are going to have to make the hard calls. Myeloma is going to take center stage in your life from the moment that you get told you have it and it’s going to stay there for the rest of your life. Every choice you make. Every thing you do. Every relationship you have will be affected by this disease.
I had an interesting debate with my wife’s best friend last night about how all of this affects my wife, since she is my caregiver. My wife is in the medical field and she works at a hospital. She has seen what could be my future manifested in other patients at the end of their battles with Myeloma and it scares the hell out of her. Personally, I think it should…. it scares the hell out of me, too. My wife and I have the polar opposite reaction to this disease, though. I tend to look at it like Rocky looks at life. I’m determined to stand up and yell at the top of my voice that Myeloma will NOT win this no matter how hard it hits me and I don’t intend to ever allow this to knock me to my knees. I research. I research my research. I go over every blood test. I analyze every detail and I do this to prepare for my fight. For the past few years it has consumed me. Although I’m no Rocky Balboa, I am preparing for my fight just like a boxer. I’m preparing for my fight all of the time. I live it.
My wife is different. She prefers not to talk about it…. especially as much as I do. I’m not going to presume to understand how she, as a person, needs to process and work through this, but the fact is that Myeloma affects her every bit as much as it affects me. The only difference is the effect it has on us. I deal with it physically a lot more than her, but she’s left with the aftermath of the battle. Neither one of us are in an envious position.
Her friend had the best of intentions, but like most cancer patients…. my standard response is that unless you are a Myeloma patient, then you just won’t understand. It ended up being quite lively and I stubbornly refused to budge from my position…. just as she refused to budge from hers. In the end, she left (mistakenly) thinking I was mad because she voiced her opinion.
Nothing changed from us having that debate last night. At the end of the night, I was thinking about Myeloma too much and once again, my wife was tired of hearing about it. It brings me back to what I originally said. This disease is tough. If you are a patient or a caregiver you need to toughen up and you need to toughen up quick because one way or another…. this disease is going to take center stage in your life whether you want it to or not. I had absolutely no intention to talk about Myeloma last night, but there it was front and center.
My debate last night was unplanned, but it once again had me thinking about how I’ve been affected by Myeloma. It takes me a lot longer to do things. I have a greater difficulty focusing most of the time, but at this point in my life I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that I’m winning this fight. I’m 10 months post SCT and my numbers are better than at my initial diagnosis 2 years ago. My physical limitations are much higher than I ever expected and I’m probably not going to ever get back to pre SCT physical form, but while I agree with Rocky that the world is mean and nasty, I see the beauty in it, too. I have a lot to be thankful for and I have a lot of beauty around me. Being forced to slow my roll might be inconvenient, but it has allowed me to see that and appreciate it so much more than I have before. It’s another victory to celebrate and I’ll take every one that I can.