Myeloma at 25
Nicole Cane is not your ‘typical’ myeloma patient.
Diagnosed when she was aged just 25, the Gold Coast resident is much younger than the average age of diagnosis – 70.
“Everyone has been quite surprised,” she said.
“The youngest person with myeloma I’ve met so far has been in their late 30s.”
In October 2015 Nicole had been experiencing some leg and back pain, but put it down to her physical job in a warehouse.
It wasn’t until she was on her way back home after a weekend away she realised things were more serious.
“I was on my way back to the airport and I was literally shuffling along; I was so slow,” she said.
Her sister encouraged her to go to the chiropractor, who also thought something was wrong.
“He barely touched my back and then told me to go to my doctor toget a referral for an MRI and x-ray,” she said.
Tests showed several tumours in Nicole’s body.
“I had one the size of a golf ball on the outside of my skull, one on my ribs, and one tennis ball-sized on my spine that was starting to grow
inwards,” she said.
Nicole was immediately admitted to hospital where she had surgery to remove the tumour on her spine. Shortly after surgery, a bone marrow aspirate showed she had myeloma.
“My doctors drew up a 12-month treatment plan, which shocked me. I couldn’t believe it would take so long,” she said.
The plan started with four months of chemotherapy but after just two cycles it was clear that chemo alone wasn’t doing the job fast enough.
Radiation was next, which had better results.
“It was amazing – within an hour of treatment, I could feel my legs getting stronger immediately,” Nicole said, referring to the severe nerve pain on her legs and feet she’d been feeling due to her tumours.
The nerve pain impacted Nicole’s mobility and she had to use a walking frame for two months.
“I had to go to the physio and retrain my foot to walk properly again. It was flopping around like a duck’s,” she said.
Two transplants would give Nicole the best chance of fighting her myeloma, given her young age.
“In June 2016 I had my autologous transplant, then in October I had my allogeneic transplant with donor cells from my sister,” she said.
It was during her allogeneic transplant that Nicole spent over three months staying at the Leukaemia Foundation’s Clem Jones-Sunland Village.
“Mum and my nanna stayed with me most of the time, so having family support close by really helped,” she said.
A participant in the Leukaemia Foundation’s Fit to Thrive program, Nicole also credits the exercise sessions as a source of support.
“I felt stronger and it was great to work out with people who were in a similar boat,” she said.
As a result of her treatment, Nicole also went into an early menopause. She was given the chance to freeze her eggs the weekend before chemotherapy started.
Nicole is now looking ahead to the future.
“I’m hoping to return to work soon, once my cyclophosphamide dose is reduced and I receive my vaccinations,” she explained.
“It will be good to get a bit of my life back.”