multiple myeloma (MM)
Gwendolyn describes herself as a wanderlust who never likes to let the grass grow under her feet. After college, she moved from her hometown in Florida to Houston and spent the next few years moving around Texas for work. She started her new life in Texas where her son, Sterling, was born and raised. She loves traveling, but following a trip to Belize, she started to notice white spots on her skin and other strange issues happening with her health. After doing some research on her own and going to the doctors, she was told she likely had lupus. Her health concerns continued as she started experiencing extreme fatigue every morning, very low blood counts, and changing skin colors.
In 2017, she started to experience a horrible pain in her back which prevented her from living her usual on-the-go lifestyle, including walking her dog, exercising, and going out with friends. She went to Urgent Care for the pain where she had a urine test run showing a high urine count. She began seeing an oncologist, a rheumatologist, and a gastroenterologist, but she still had no diagnosis. The gastroenterologist ran all the tests she could and was not finding anything except a grave concern for her blood count. Her back pain worsened to the point where she could not walk and had difficulty breathing. She ended up at a nephrologist who ordered a kidney biopsy. Following her results, she was referred to an oncologist who did a bone marrow biopsy. After years of advocating for herself without answers, Gwendolyn learned she had multiple myeloma (MM).
After her diagnosis, she had two blood transfusions which left her extremely tired, especially since she continued to work. Once her blood count went up, she began her treatment and had a stem cell transplant in 2019. During this time she went into “survivor mode” and started to learn all she could about her disease. While researching, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) website came up, along with a plethora of other organizations. She chose to look at LLS first and found so many resources and educational materials. She immediately signed up for the Patti Robinson First Connection program and talked to another survivor about her story. She also found a support group in her area and found it so relaxing to be there to hear everyone’s story. She faithfully attended every meeting and loves that they gave her a sense of energy, as well as more information to research. On top of this she also applied for and received LLS’s co-pay and travel assistance. Even following treatment she continues to watch every LLS webinar available and continues to educate herself to stay up to date on treatments.
She feels truly blessed that in addition to LLS’s support, she had so much support from friends and family. Her boss would check on her regularly and grocery shopped for her. Her sister helped to hire a cleaning service, and her mom was her “warrior,” driving her to all her appointments. Her son would phone and check up on her to see if she needed anything. His job was also to take care of some chores that she used to be able to do, such as changing the A/C filters. Following treatment she is getting back to her active self. She is back at the gym, riding the bicycle, and volunteering in Houston, helping individuals prepare their taxes and working with AmeriCore on adult education seminars.
She recommends LLS to anyone she meets with blood cancer. Without LLS she never would have connected with a lot of people and would not have learned all the information she has. She donates every year and supports the Houston Light The Night (LTN). She also participated in a recent Houston virtual event where she shared her story along with other survivors. She has maintained a positive outlook on life even after her long battle to find a diagnosis. She says a lot of positive things come out of negative things, and she is always looking to give back after all she has gone through.