Jim Detwiler

The Ultimate Blessing
Monday, October 22
“There’s a path, a glorious light
That guides you up the mountainside
At the top, if you could you’d cry
‘Cause you see pure love for the very first time
Deep as it is wide”
-Lyrics by Eric Paslay

Some of the most devastating words ever spoken to me were those that came from my oncologist on May 6, 2016: “You have a rare incurable blood cancer called multiple myeloma.” I remember sitting there, gripping my wife’s hand, stunned. I had convinced myself that the news would be good. I certainly was not prepared to hear the word “incurable” attached to any diagnosis. Is that even a thing in 2016? Incurable?  

My doctor continued talking, but my mind refused to comprehend. In a fog, I heard words like “stem cell transplant” and “free light chain ratio” and “high risk for progression.”  I could not string any of these words together to make meaning. My wife started asking my doctor questions. She is a master problem-solver who immediately starts looking for solutions in a time of crisis. I, however, was still stuck on “incurable.” As my brain slowly managed to bring the moment into focus, I heard my doctor say, “it is smoldering. Asymptomatic. No treatment yet. We will wait and watch.” Seeing the disbelief on my face, my doctor added, “Jim, this is really a lucky catch.” 

Leaving the cancer center building, I kept myself together until my wife and I reached our car in the parking lot. Then, I lost my mind. A flood of emotion overwhelmed both of us. Cancer.  How? A lucky catch? Wait to treat it? For what kind of cancer do you just sit around and wait for treatment? This was not going to work for me.

Fast forward to today. On Oct. 25, 2018, I will join my Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma teammates in Nepal as we climb to the door of Mount Everest, 17,600 plus feet above sea level, to raise funds and awareness for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Other than a couple of small bone lesions, my cancer is still smoldering. I am still “waiting and watching,” but I am no longer devastated. If anything, I feel incredibly blessed. What I did not realize on that seemingly dark day in 2016 is that this dark shadow does indeed prove the light of sunshine around me. The love I have been shown by so many during this campaign has been the guiding light for me:
  • The endless support from my beautiful wife, children and family.
  • The generosity of my friends, community and local businesses.
  • The overwhelming encouragement from the leaders, educators, students and families in my school district where I work.
  • The invaluable expertise of my doctors and medical team.
  • And, the collective strength of new friends: my teammates and fellow multiple myeloma patients on this MMRF Moving Mountains Everest journey.
I applied to be on this Everest team because I was feeling helpless and somewhat hopeless. I thought, “If I cannot fight this cancer through medicine in this stage of the disease, then I am going to find another way.” Raising awareness and funds for the MMRF has provided me that path. I believe with my whole heart we can and we will find a cure for multiple myeloma. With the expertise and tenacity of doctors and researchers gifted by God and funded through the MMRF, we will surely move this mountain. Each year we get closer to that goal.

As I move along this path with multiple myeloma, I am letting the mountain ahead move me closer to new understanding about what is important and essential in this short time I am given on Earth. For me, what is essential is simply to love and be loved. To experience love today, in the only guaranteed moment I have, which is this moment now and this moment is the ultimate blessing. And, it is the true light that will guide me up the mountainside in Nepal.
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