Myeloma Awareness Week campaign highlights disease
A dad was diagnosed with incurable blood cancer and told he was one wrong move away from paralysis after experiencing neck pain.
Jamie Hart, from Newport in Wales, had been coaching football and going to work as usual without knowing he had a collapsed vertebra.
The damage was caused by myeloma – a rare form of cancer that starts in the bone marrow.
“I’d been running around like a nutter playing football, heading the ball,” Jamie told the BBC.
“My spinal cord could have snapped at any time, worst-case scenario I could have been paralysed.”
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In 2016, Jamie, then aged 49, started feeling lethargic and experienced pain in the back of his neck.
He recalled: “To describe it really, all I can say is that I thought my head was going to fall off.
“It felt like my neck wasn’t attached.”
That same month he visited his GP, who referred him for an X-ray.
However, it took two months for his X-ray appointment, in which time Jamie carried on working a physical job in a leisure centre and coaching a football team.
After conducting the X-ray his radiographer asked him to wait while she left the room for 20 minutes.
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“I thought she’d forgotten about me but the next thing you know there’s a doctor there who said, ‘stay there, don’t move, we’ve seen some abnormal images on your neck’,” Jamie said.
The doctor revealed he had a collapsed vertebra in his lower neck. It needed to be placed in a spinal collar to avoid paralysis.
He also had a cage inserted in his neck, followed by an operation to stabilise his neck.
It was then that medics explained the damage was caused by myeloma – also known as multiple myeloma.
Jamie said: “I didn’t know anything about that whatsoever.”
Myeloma is an incurable blood cancer that occurs in the bone marrow.
Although myeloma is usually incurable, it can be treatable – leading to periods of remission.
“I’ve been dealt a blow but I can’t do anything about it,” he said.
“Let’s say I’ve got 10 to 15 years, maybe less, to live – why am I going to worry about things I can’t change?
“I want to live my life to the fullest for how long that might be.”
He worried about the impact of the disease on his family, including his wife, 18-year-old son, 23 year-old step daughter and three-year-old grandson.
Following the diagnosis Jamie spent a month in hospital, underwent 25 rounds of radiotherapy and had to retire from his job.
A stem cell transplant in 2019 put him into remission. However, during a holiday abroad in 2022 he broke his arm.
Tests showed the break was caused by a weakness from the myeloma, meaning the cancer has returned.
Since then he has been on chemotherapy.
He is now focused on spending time with his family, as well as raising awareness of the disease.
“If I ask 10 people [if] they know what myeloma is I’ll have 10 people who say they don’t know,” he said.
In its early stages myeloma often doesn’t present with symptoms, however it can cause:
- A persistent bone pain
- Tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath
- High levels of calcium in the blood – which may cause symptoms including extreme thirst, stomach pain, needing to pee frequently, constipation or confusion
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision, dizziness or headaches
- Repeated infections
- Bruising and unusual bleeding – such as frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums and heavy periods
- Weak bones that break (fracture) easily
- Kidney problems.
If you experience unexplained symptoms you should speak to your GP.
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