Multiple myeloma patient finds inner strength, square dances

Pat and her husband, John, enjoy a 2003 Valentine’s square dance. They met in a square-dancing group in 1999 and continue to dance together in several local clubs.

Pat and her husband, John, enjoy a 2003 Valentine’s square dance. They met in a square-dancing group in 1999 and continue to dance together in several local clubs.

Pat Preston is not a complainer. Her response when people are whining about something, but doing nothing to change it: And your point is?

Since August 12, 2010, she's been battling multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer that begins when plasma cells become abnormal and collect in the bone marrow. After several rounds of chemotherapy at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and a stem cell transplant at Oregon Health and Science University, the cancer is in remission. WVCI Medical Oncologist Dr. Jeff Sharman oversees her treatment and she'll continue to take maintenance and bone strengthening drugs, such as Revlimid, for the rest of her life.

Two months before her diagnosis, she had a routine diabetes wellness exam that came back normal. But in July, she began experiencing elbow pain, which was initially attributed to tennis elbow. Then, a month later, she was jerked awake in pain and was shocked to find a three-inch hole in her arm, where her bone had broken due to a build-up in myeloma cells. After being rushed to the hospital, a specialist told her it was likely cancer.

Working in the medical field since 1990, Preston had never heard of multiple myeloma. Now, she wants to raise awareness about it.

When delivering medicine to assisted living centers, she used to say, I'm just shy, sweet, kind, lovable, innocent.

Pat on her wedding day, July 14, 2001.

Pat on her wedding day, July 14, 2001.

Her sweet smile is juxtaposed to her fiery spirit, which her husband appreciates. She met John in 1999, when she started attending a square-dancing group, upon a friend's suggestion. They married on July 14, 2001, a date special to Preston because her parents were married on that day in 1946.

Preston now participates in several local square dancing groups and served as president for two of the clubs. For Preston, square-dancing provides her fun and exercise and a chance to get out and about for special events and festivals.

Her square-dancing friends have also supported Preston through her cancer journey. Her two sons and two granddaughters serve as her motivation to get well.

As she lives and dances with cancer, she's learned not to sweat the small stuff - or the big stuff - and knows that whatever happens, life will go on. No complaints, here.

By Josh Kermisch, executive director of WVCI


Posted January 26, 2012

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