Hollie’s Story: From Oncology Nurse to Cancer Patient Fighting Multiple Myeloma
Hollie still lives in the same small town where she attended high school. Hollie is blessed that after losing her husband of 37 years she found love again. At the age of 64 Hollie married Bill, a high school friend from her small graduating class of 52 students.
After Bill’s wife passed away they reconnected communicating via text messages and talking on the phone. Their first time seeing each other after 50 years was less than a romantic encounter.
Prior to Hollie’s cancer diagnosis she had other health issues and underwent several surgeries. Unfortunately, she was alone recovering at home and she fell out of bed. Having a landline, she redialed the last number expecting the voice on the other end to be her daughter. To her surprise it was a man that answered. You guessed it, Bill was on the other end of the phone.
Hollie explained while chuckling, “I am on the floor and I can’t get up. I was a mess laying on the floor with surgical drains hanging out everywhere.” It was after this encounter where he rescued me from my fall that we started dating. After being the caretaker for his ill wife I felt bad that he now had to deal with my illness as well.
After spending 25 years as an oncology nurse Hollie knows a lot about oncology but expecting to be a cancer patient herself never crossed her mind. She was already a patient of Hematology Oncology of Indiana (HOI) seeing Medical Oncologist Jenelle Miller, MD for her immune deficiency. When lab results came back showing a spike in her monoclonal protein, “I knew right away it was multiple myeloma,” said Hollie.
Hollie was correct in her self-diagnosis as Dr. Miller confirmed the results of the bone marrow biopsy showed she has myeloma. Hollie explained, “You’re never prepared for this type of news. I was surrounded by a ton of nurses that I’d worked with at the hospital and we all hugged but that was the last tear I shed about it.”
Dr. Miller explained how they were fortunate to catch Hollie’s disease early in its course and that likely contributed to a more successful outcome to treatment. “I think her background as an oncology nurse and her faith in God go a long way in molding her positive attitude. Overall, she does find the bright side of dark situations…especially after the worst has passed.”
Hollie said, “I wanted Dr. Miller as my doctor because while working as a nurse at the hospital you just knew not to mess up her orders. She was on top of everything and I appreciated that. I also got to witness Dr. Miller with her patients and she is so good with them, such a kind soul.”
Hollie continued while laughing that she is lucky to feel good every day with only a mild ache in her femur, “The only pain I have is in my knees from being an old lady with arthritis.”
When asked how she has such a positive attitude while living with cancer she replied, “I think God is watching out for me.” Then with a firm voice stating, “And I follow Dr. Miller’s orders, I’m a very compliant patient.”
In addition to her faith, Hollie attributes her well-being to her lifestyle. She spends quality time with her three daughters and seven grandchildren. She shared a funny story about her grandsons, while watching a science fiction movie the main character was an old lady with a bald head called the Ancient One and the grandchildren laughing said, “Nanna that looks like you!”
Out of seven grandkids she was blessed with one granddaughter who is now a senior in high school studying cosmetology. She expresses joy reminiscing back when her granddaughter was just a little girl and they would always play hair and make-up.
“Hollie is a generous person. Helping at her church preparing and serving dinner to the congregation and young people. She has frequently spoken to me about her friend “Peachie” who served there with her. Peachie recently passed away at 95. I think Hollie learned some godly life lessons from Peachie,” said Dr. Miller.
Hollie focuses on living her life not on the cancer and spends her time reading and enjoys playing in the dirt in her garden. She also likes to cook and eats well with lots of fresh garden fruits and vegetables. In fact, recently she and a neighbor had an applesauce marathon making massive amounts, approximately 100 quarts!
It’s been four years now since her diagnosis. Hollie states, “Some days I don’t think I have cancer, I just don’t think about it.” Hollie goes to HOI about every two months and is so thankful to still be in remission. “Everyone at the practice is just wonderful. All the staff is very caring and anytime I call the office they are all so responsive.” Although multiple myeloma is not a curable cancer she is currently in remission and on a maintenance treatment of oral Revlimid®. Dr. Miller added, “As I think about the five and a half years that Hollie has been coming here, I am amazed once again by so many of our patients – that month after month and year after year they show up for every test, every appointment and every treatment that we ask of them. This just becomes part of life as it is. And yet in my mind that does not minimize the true commitment that they give us. They are not just survivors. They are warriors.”
Hollie concluded in typical fashion highlighting her steadfast attitude, “When you have a cancer diagnosis its overwhelming but you have to decide how much time you want to give the cancer to rule your life. I know at some point it will come back but right now that’s not my concern as I have other things to do.”