One Man’s Fight Against Cancer In The Air

Owens_weekly_080114I learn a lot from you, the readers. Evidence of the depth and breath of the current opioid epidemic in our communities continues to pour in, as area parents and recovering addicts share their stories and insights. This is a very sad — but necessary — education.

An email on another topic that’s new to me came from Scott Matty of Port Washington. The issue: a blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma. Scott suffers from this disease, and he wants to help others who have it, or may not even know they have it.

Thanks to Scott, I now know — and in a few minutes you, too, will know — how this illness is acquired and how those afflicted can get medical help for no cost. Again, valuable lessons.

Here’s Scott:

Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that resides in your bone marrow. It attaches to your bone structure and loves to play havoc with your immune system. It also results in tumors and causes bone loss, as well as bones to break easily and not repair properly. The kidneys, too, are affected. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 20,000 new cases this year. Currently, there is no cure.

With new treatments, our survival rate has increased. When I was diagnosed four years ago, the average survival rate was three to five years. Today, it is five to seven years. I have met many who are living with Multiple Myeloma 10, 15 and 20 years.

To date, no cause for Myeloma has been identified. Some research has suggested possible associations with a decline in the immune system, specific occupations, exposure to certain chemicals, and exposure to radiation. For example, the likelihood of Multiple Myeloma is high among people in agricultural occupations, petroleum workers, workers in leather industries and cosmetologists.

How I found out I had the disease was typical — it started with a broken bone. Usually, someone has bone damage before being diagnosed.

I was the type of person who was in the gym five days a week lifting weights. About a year before I was diagnosed, my trainer and I noticed I was getting hurt a lot. Basically, my chest felt like it was popping. I also got out of breath easily, even gasping for air. One day, playing with my daughter, I bent over and cracked a rib. I didn’t think anything about it, but my regular doc did, and he ran a test based on my past history. I had pneumonia twice. The second time I was hospitalized. The hospital should have diagnosed my Myeloma back then. I was on a business trip to Mexico when I got the call.

“Scott, you have a cancer called Multiple Myeloma,” my doctor said.

“Is it a death sentence?” I asked.

“No, but it is serious.”

The majority of doctors do not know or understand Multiple Myeloma. So, when you have symptoms, you usually go for many tests before they recognize your illness.

I’m certain there is a link between this disease and exposure to chemicals. Especially the toxins spread with the attack on The World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Like many sufferers who have lived or worked in Manhattan, I am certain that 911 is the culprit. Now, more than 12 years later, many of us are living with 911 every day of our lives. Fortunately, in Jan. 2012, Multiple Myeloma was put on the list for The World Trade Center Health Fund. I immediately signed up.

Here is a government program that actually works. To sign up, go to the WTC Health Program web site, www.cdc.gov/wtc. Fill out a simple form, and once that is approved, you go to an authorized NYC health facility for a complete physical. Based on the physical, you are certified for the program and given a health counselor to work with. It took me nearly four months to get to this point.

For the WTC Health Fund to pay for your health costs, your health facility and doctor need to sign up for the program. This can take months. But once in the system, the WTC Health Fund pays all costs related to the cancer or disease that is not covered by insurance. Yes, this includes all medications. If you develop another illness because of the certified disease or cancer, the fund pays those expenses, too.

This program is the best-kept secret. Since 911-related illness is a very localized problem, getting organizations or our elected officials to put money behind spreading the word is difficult. But those cancer patients who do find out, will not only improve the quality of their lives, but also could save their lives.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society here on Long Island does an outstanding job in helping those of us with blood cancers.Visit the website www.lls.org.

Thank you, Scott. Like so many other area residents, I am grateful that you shared this information, and hope that you will continue to be stronger than this disease.

John Owens is editor in chief of Anton Community Newspapers. Email: jowens@antonnews.com

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