Editor's note: Today's column by Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller is one of a series of articles being published in the Opelika-Auburn News this week in support of Auburn basketball Coach Bruce Pearl's AUTLIVE cancer campaign. The 2019 AUTLIVE game will be 7 p.m. Saturday vs. Alabama.
My mother, Nell Virginia Romine Fuller, died on Friday, May 11, 1979, from Multiple Myeloma.
After complaining of chest and back pain for a time, she went to Baptist Montclair in Birmingham where she was diagnosed with a cancer that I had never heard of.
Fractures without falling
Multiple Myeloma is a B-cell malignancy in which abnormal, clonal plasma cells proliferate and accumulate in the bone marrow.
Myeloma cells disrupt normal bone marrow function and invade the surrounding bone causing bone destruction. Simply put, it’s a cancer of the plasma cells inside bone marrow, which is considered incurable.
Many patients, including my mother, suffer fractures without falling.
My mother and our family lived in Dadeville and she became a patient of Dr. John Blythe, who was a hematologist-oncologist and practiced in Alexander City. Bone disease is a key feature of multiple myeloma.
Nearly 80 percent of patients have abnormalities in bone radiographs at diagnosis and up to 90 percent of patients develop bone complications over the disease course. Dr. Blythe once said that momma’s bones “looked like honey combs.”
Signs and symptom of Multiple Myeloma can vary and, early in the disease, there may be none. When they do occur, they can include bone pain, especially in your spine or chest.
This is the second-most common blood cancer with close to 160,000 new cases diagnosed globally each year.
It remains incurable for most patients, leading to approximately 106,000 deaths per year worldwide. In the United States, it’s estimated that in 2018 there were more than 30,000 new cases of Multiple Myeloma, with an estimated 13,000 deaths.
I understand advances are being made in immunotherapy as a treatment for Multiple Myeloma. My mother was diagnosed in 1975 and, at that time, there was little that could be done for someone with this disease.
I spent the last night by her bedside at the Dadeville Hospital.
My prayers were for God to spare her the pain she was in and, if she had to go, to gently take her home.
My brother, Bob, relieved me a little after 6 a.m., and I had only been back in Opelika a short time before he called to tell me she passed.
Her funeral and burial were on Sunday, May 13, which happened to be Mother’s Day.
I appreciate the Bruce Pearl Family Foundation for continuing the fight against cancer. Coach Pearl started the AUTLIVE after becoming the basketball coach at Auburn University.
As coach says, “Let’s honor all those who fought the fight against cancer and let’s help those that are still in battle. Together, we can make a difference!”
About my mother
There are few families in Opelika-Auburn that have not been touched by cancer.
Hardly a day goes by without me thinking about my mother. She was only 63 years old and left a husband, four sons, a daughter and several grandchildren to mourn her passing.
The good news is she was a Christian and there is no doubt where she is and will spend eternity.
For more information on how you can detect or treat cancer, contact a physican, the cancer treatment center at East Alabama Medical Center, or the American Cancer Society.