Often times bad news comes for us at the worst times, there’s a reason why the saying “when it rains it pours” rings true for many people, and for American Red Cross Greater Cincinnati Tri-State Chapter board member Deborah Robb it began pouring in 2020.
“Early in the year I started losing weight, I wasn’t trying to, but I needed to, so it wasn’t bothering me,” Deborah said, recalling the early days of the pandemic. “I also had some back pain. I had fractured my back in 2019 doing normal household stuff and was diagnosed with Osteoporosis, so I thought the back pain was connected to that.”
The pain wore on, but Deborah did not think it was anything drastic, and even if she did there was so much fear and uncertainty about being at a doctor’s office in that time with the pandemic in full swing that she waited and hoped things would get better. Then the constant fatigue set it.
“I stared getting extremely tired every day. I wasn’t sleeping, my nose was bleeding every night. Like going through a whole box of tissues each night bleeding. I still didn’t know what was going on, but I had a strong feeling it wasn’t COVID. I work in construction, so I would make occasional visits to job sites, but I found myself barely able to make it to the site from my car because I had no energy.”
This continued for months. Deborah suffered with massive back pain and extreme fatigue. It got to the point where she struggled standing up in the shower. Barely eating anything at this point due to her appetite being gone, Deborah finally called her doctor and told him that she needed to come in.
“It was June by this point, and on the way to see my doctor I knew I was going to ask him to put me in the hospital,” Deborah said of the trip that would change her life. “When I got there the doctor said they wanted to run some tests, I said ‘no, you’re going to admit me, then we can do the tests,’ and my brother came to help me get over to the hospital because I had no energy to get myself there. They ran some tests and initially said I had a severe kidney infection.”
Some of the pain Deborah has coursing through her felt like it came from the kidney area, so this made sense to her. While waiting on further test results she stayed at the hospital overnight, and it’s the next morning when she got the news that would change her life.
“At 6:30 the next morning the doctor came in and told me I had cancer. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the doctor told me that my kidneys were functioning at 10 percent and that I’d lost a lot of blood, so they were getting to work immediately. There’s a nurse hanging a blood bag beside me as the doctor explains that they’re starting the chemotherapy treatments right now, and that if I had waited another two days, I would be dead.”
Multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer where cancerous blood cells build up in bone marrow, the soft matter inside our bones. Deborah received a staggering amount of blood through her initial treatment due to how long she waited to come in.
“It was the middle of the pandemic, and I was scared to go to the doctor,” Deborah said of her mental state prior to going to the doctor. “I was scared of being in a hospital, scared of catching COVID, and my fear nearly killed me.”
Thankfully Deborah faced that fear and went in when she did, because that gave the doctors enough time to work with her and get her back on her feet.
“I am in remission. I still have the back pain, that’s going to be with me forever, but the cancer is in remission. I had to get a bone marrow transplant in October of 2020, and I’m still on medication to help strengthen my bones, but right now I’m doing good.”