Wednesday, December 7, 2011

In memoriam...Bruce Bertsche

I have a few updates to post in the next few days: gastroenteritis / gastritis, an interesting debate on curability versus control, some studies on the linkage of Revlimid with second cancers (or the lack thereof), etc.

But first, I want to talk about my friend Bruce.  It's taken me a few days before I was ready to say anything, so sorry for the delay in posts.

I met Bruce and his wonderful wife Jan during my treatment -- they came to Arkansas during the middle of my treatment after reading this blog and other discussions with friends and medical professionals.  We hit it off immediately.

Bruce was dealt a far worse hand than I.  His disease was very difficult to detect -- his Myeloma did not appear in his blood, or in light chain analysis.  It could only be found on imaging and via bone marrow biopsies.

I don't recall the extent to which Bruce had been treated before arriving in Arkansas, but he had already suffered terrible bone involvement and lost partial sight from the disease.  He was diagnosed with a high risk variant, for which outcomes are indeed dire.  Most people elsewhere are given a year to 18 months.   Bruce, as it happens, survived about twice that long.  During his treatment, the disease left the blood system and metastacized through his body.  He dealt with it spreading to his liver.  He dealt with other cancers (unrelated, most likely, but which capitalized on his weakened immune system) that required surgeries.  He suffered terrible pain, and endured the strongest medicines there are which wreaked havoc on his body and left him fatigued beyond most people's ability to reckon.

Through it all, he maintained a quiet dignity and grace that was inspirational to me, and through it all his wife kept her faith, her sense of humor and her compassion -- and never once became bitter despite this terrible curveball that life threw at their family.

Through the past three years, we kept in touch and whenever our schedules in Arkansas coincided, we tried to connect for dinner or a nice bottle of wine.  We both found it comforting to run into each other at the clinic...we'd been in the trenches together.

At the end, Bruce remained responsive to the medicines that BB was cooking up for him, which included Carfilzomib.  Unfortunately, en route to the clinic for treatment he suffered a cardiac event of some kind.  Whether this was brought on by the disease, the treatment, the general run-down state in which he found himself or whether it was completely unrelated, is at this time unclear.  What is clear, though, is that Bruce is no longer suffering.

I would like the thoughts and prayers of this little community, which played such a hugely beneficial part in my own therapy and recovery and which continues to inspire me on a weekly basis, to turn to Jan and the rest of the Bertsche family.   We all lost a very good man.

God bless you, Jan.  We love you.


  1. Nick: Thank you for sharing this great man's story. We have all made friends because of this cancer. It is difficult knowing that some will not have a good outcome. No reason to not bring those people along side and walk with them down this path. It is a God given blessing. Stay well my friend...

  2. Beautifully written and a great tribute. My condolences.


  3. A wonderful tribute to "our Bruce". He is a "myeloma blessing" as Jan says of the amazing people we fall in love with on this difficult, life changing journey. It hit Dave and I very hard. We never entertained the idea that he wouldn't become a HR miracle, and yet in almost every aspect he clearly was. Whenever we were in Ark Dave would seek him out at every opportunity where ever he was to just sit and chat. We enjoyed dinner with him and others during our Oct check up and as you so well expressed, he remained a wonderful dinner companion and fellow myeloma warrior. I miss him terribly.

  4. Beautifully said, Nick. Bruce and Jan are, indeed, among the most courageous, kind, inspirational people that I had the honor of meeting in Little Rock. They epitomize the term 'myeloma warriors'. Their faith emboldened me in my journey and my heart breaks for all whom love them. In the sadness, I take comfort that he is no longer suffering. Farewell and thank you, Bruce. Peace to Jan and all.

  5. I am so so saddened to hear of this, Bruce and Jan were amazing. My heart goes out to Jan and the rest of the family. Meeting people like this along the way is one of the best silver linings of the journey. Losing them is a great cruelty. Rest in peace Bruce.

  6. Nick: for some reason a memory hit me out of the blue about briefly running into Jan and Bruce outside the old infusion center at MIRT. We chatted about a couple of things, you and your MM battle included. They GREATLY enjoyed your company. Good Health and Joy to you and your family in 2012, Nick!

  7. This blog is really a great source of information which is very useful for me. Thank you very much for such important information.


  8. This blog is really a great source of information which is very useful for me. Thank you very much for such important information.


  9. God bless Bruce and his family - I was SO saddened to hear via facebook just after his passing. Your tribute here was perfect Nick and I understand completely how you will all miss him on visits to Little Rock. So many friends we make along the way that make such a difference to our lives and bring with them much joy. I keep in touch with Jan via FB and know how difficult these coming months will be for her. Keep strong and well Nick and all very best wishes from this tiny village in England.