Rachel Monsein Overcash

We Won't Just Sit Back
Tuesday, June 20
I think cancer is one of those things that you never think will happen to you. At least, that’s how I thought about it. I have seen friends and their family members battle the disease, and read many stories of triumph and loss stemming from various cancers. With my family being so active and healthy, and with no real family history of the disease, it wasn’t something I ever thought would hit so close to home. 

My dad had initially told us that he was going in for more tests after a physical showed some discrepancies in his initial blood work. He said something along the lines of “it might be something called multiple myeloma, but I’m sure it’s not - I feel fine, it’s probably nothing.” In a nutshell, this is how my family tends to deal with things. We like to minimize. It’s easier to deal with things if you don’t have to look at the gravity of the situation. Maybe it will go away! Then we got the news that it really was, in fact, cancer. You can’t wish cancer away. You can’t pretend multiple myeloma isn’t there.

My dad has always been the strong one in the family. I can count the number of times I have seen him cry. If he gets emotional, it’s a domino effect. Part of it may be that he is surrounded by women (a wife and three daughters, plus a son). It also may have something to do with the fact that he is without a doubt the leader of our family - the one with the answers with what to do next, the one who always has the right guidance and advice. So when I got the phone call and he told me that he did have cancer and was going to have to start treatment immediately, I was scared. At that point in time, I was scared not because I was facing the reality that I may lose my father, but because I could hear so much fear and uncertainty in his shaky voice.

My sister and brother came to my house. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We ate Bojangle’s and sat in silence. We googled multiple myeloma (bad idea). We tried to talk about what was going to happen and we had no idea, and the one person we could call had just been diagnosed with a disease that none of us knew anything about. After receiving a second and third opinion at Duke and Dana-Farber, respectively, we later learned that my dad had smoldering multiple myeloma. In the grand scheme of things, this was “good.” In fact, starting chemo could have made things worse.

My dad has continued to live life to its fullest, traveling around the world to fish (one of his passions), spending time at the beach, doing CrossFit, and continuing to run his business. Because he has not been “sick,” it has been easy to not face the diagnosis these past five years. It almost was like he was diagnosed with cancer, and then everything was “OK.” Every three months, he goes for blood work and his appointments and I wait for my mom to text me that everything looks good. I know that there may come a day where I don’t get that report.

The MMRF has allowed for my family to get honest about my dad’s disease. People would never know looking at him and his lifestyle that he has multiple myeloma, as he pushes himself harder than anyone I know. I had been following the MMRF on Facebook and was floored when I saw the first Mt. Kilimanjaro climb video. When the MMRF asked for interest on their Facebook page about Fuji, I knew I wanted to be a part of the action. It is allowing me to meet others who have been affected by the disease. Taking on this mountain makes it real. I can’t sit around and pretend that everything is going to be ok. Taking action, by both climbing and fundraising, will translate directly into lifesaving research and drugs that can help the next person diagnosed with this devastating disease. I am proud to be a part of this incredible and innovative way to take on multiple myeloma.
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