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.