Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
October 31, 2021
My cancer journey began on September 19, 2018, when I was diagnosed with incurable bone marrow cancer. Since then, I’ve written many Blogs about what I have done to get to where I am today. But I have a much bigger and more important story to tell. It is the story of my awesome wife.
What can I say?
She has been my unwavering support who has given me tough love, has pulled me out of moments of depression, and never has complained about her personal medical issues.
Regrettably, I have not been equally reciprocal.
Certainly, I have supported her when she has needed me. But during my moments of frustration and withdrawal, I have made her cry. Unintentionally, I have saddened her at times when I have been self-absorbed and oblivious to her feelings. Yet, she always forgives me. She is always strong. She is always there for me.
She is awesome.
It would be impossible for me to travel the path I have followed without her. There are so many instances where she has proved herself to be superhuman. Here are some of those times when she has shined.
When I was Diagnosed …
My wife was with me at the oncologist’s office in September 2018 as we both learned of my diagnosis and dire prognosis. George, my oncologist, told us that this cancer was incurable, and I had 3-6 months to live. In that moment, my entire world seemed to collapse around me.
I looked at my wife, and she looked into my eyes. I saw hope in her eyes. But I also could see her eyes tear up while still being my pillar of strength.
She did not question my decision to reject chemotherapy and follow a program that had no guarantee. My goal was to maintain a quality of life for whatever time I had left. She knew that no one had done what I was planning. I was embarking into uncharted waters. But I knew she was my partner moving forward with my Unconventional Cancer Protocols.
She never hesitates to encourage me and to think outside of the box.
The Discussion of Death …
My wife and I discuss death openly, spiritually, and pragmatically.
The months before my dad died many years ago, I remember my mother never allowed my sister and me to discuss death with him. How sad it was for him! How sad it was for me! I never achieved “closure” with my dad. My dad was never able to talk about his life and impending death because my mom stopped the conversation.
I saw his eyes while he was on his death bed in the hospital. His eyes were piercing mine. They were glistening and trying to speak to me. Yet, he was stifled and could never verbalize what was on his mind. That evening, he passed away.
Death is part of life. It must be openly discussed.
My wife has encouraged me to speak about death with her and with our adult children. She has made “the end of life” a celebration rather than a curse.
But in the early months following my diagnosis, I knew she was crying quietly and secretively almost every morning. She forced herself to discuss a very real but uncomfortable and scary scenario.
She continues to be awesome!
When I Entered Hospice …
In August 2019, I had a severe setback. In one fall in my bathroom, I split my right femur and right humerus in half along with fracturing a couple of ribs. I was ready to die, and I wanted to die. I already had outlived my prognosis.
I was placed in a hospice hospital to die.
The strength and determination of my wife turned all this around.
She gave me tough love. She convinced me that I was a survivor and not a victim.
My wife arranged for a hospital bed to be delivered to our home and was able to get me transferred from the hospital to our home while still being under hospice care. Then, she hired an in-home physical therapist to help me.
The physical therapist got me out of the hospital bed, finally got my catheter out, and had me walking with a walker within a few weeks. My wife got me back on my Unconventional Cancer Protocols, and I began to recover. I revoked hospice and scheduled to see my oncologist in early October 2019. He was shocked that I still was alive.
I owe my recovery to my awesome wife.
When I Thought I had COVID …
In June 2021, I had an unusual and complex reaction to my monthly immunotherapy. The injection was supposed to be subcutaneous. However, the nurse botched it, entered a vein, and immediately created a hematoma that lasted 5 weeks!
About a week after this injection, I developed physical symptoms including severe muscle aches, joint pain, extreme exhaustion, diarrhea, and headaches. These symptoms are reported to be rare but significant side effects of the immunotherapy drug, Darzalex. The confluence of these side effects was reported to occur when the benefits from the therapy began to decrease, and the risks began to increase.
I returned to my oncologist about a month after the severe symptoms had slowly resolved. We discussed the possibility that my symptoms were not only side effects from Darzalex but were typical symptoms of the Delta Variant of COVID. However, I never lost taste or smell, and never had a fever. I did have a lingering cough that eventually went away.
Likely, I suffered bad side effects from the incorrect injection of the immunotherapy drug, which may have affected the strength of my immune system. The consequence may have allowed the COVID virus an opportunity to manifest.
Once again, my wife was helping me cope with all the tumult and another bout of depression from June’s setback. During those few weeks while my discomfort became incapacitating, I thought this event could be the turning point that would put me over the edge again. But my wife was there to convince me to work with my body as I had done in the past.
To be sure, I am a terrible patient. When I don’t feel well, I am a bear to live with. I was true to form while dealing with these symptoms for several weeks. Yet my wife never flinched. She was constantly there to pick me up from my state of depression with her positive attitude and encouraging remarks.
Of course, she was insistent and right. I already had recreated a robust immune system because of my Unconventional Cancer Protocols. It is my belief that my enhanced immune system prevented more severe COVID symptoms and complications from developing.
She was awesome.
I am facing another roadblock that is challenging. My cancer may be moving into an active state once again, causing me concern. On the other hand, there is a possibility that I am dealing with Long Haulers COVID symptoms and not a resurgence of multiple myeloma.
Whatever is going on, I will continue to fight the fight I started to fight over three years ago. My resolve is strong, and my attitude is positive. Once again, making memories with my loved ones and living a quality life for as long as possible are my driving forces.
If you have a debilitating, incurable, or terminal disease, you still have choices. You can decide how you want to handle yourself moving forward. For me, my wife has been my support. Hopefully, you have a significant other to help you in your moments of weakness.
I am only human. I could not have done what I have done for myself without the unrelenting strength and perseverance from my wife.
Together, my wife and I make a dynamic duo! But she is the conductor of this reality show I call my Cancer Journey.
Take time to figure this out for yourself: In times of illness or struggle, it is important to pay attention to those who act as your pillars, giving you strength and support to go on, even when you don’t feel like it yourself. I’d love to hear about the people who inspire you. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments.
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