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Paul Rabuck: Why I Moved Halfway Around the World to Fight Myeloma

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Published on June 21, 2013

It was severe back pain that led patient advocate Paul Rabuck to his diagnosis of multiple myeloma. In this video, Paul tells his story and talks about the reasons he chose to move halfway around the world in order to seek treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He also discusses how a cancer diagnosis is truly a family affair, and how this makes finding a comprehensive support team and specialized medical team absolutely critical. Watch now to hear his story.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Transcript | Paul Rabuck: Why I Moved Halfway Around the World to Fight Myeloma

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

Paul, tell us about where you were and your story of diagnosis, and what happened next?

Paul Rabuck:

Well, I was working in mainland China, and my back was killing me. And I went to the hospital that ex-pats go to in Hong Kong to be put in traction ‘cause it hurt when it was compressed. And the receptionist said that she could admit me, but it would be nine days before the doctors got back, because it was China’s New Year’s. So I leaned on my wife and a cane and watched their parades and fireworks. They really know how to do fireworks and came back nine days later. And they told me that I had lung cancer that metastasized to the bone. The L4 in my back was completely eaten up with the tumor. And they wanted to work on me over there, and I said, no thank you. So the next day we flew back to Houston and came to MD Anderson.

Andrew Schorr:

The diagnosis changed to myeloma. 

Paul Rabuck:

Myeloma, and the L4 was gone. So they operated on me and gave me a new L4, had a strap from L3 to L5 to hold me together. I guess about five months later is when we did the stem cell transplant. 

Andrew Schorr:

Now there’s an odd coincidence between yourself and your dad, Jay. Tell us about that.

Paul Rabuck:

That was in ’98, and in 2002, my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. And he was in his 80s, and there wasn’t much treatment for him. They gave him basically something to make blood, but then probably in another year-and-a-half he passed away. 

Andrew Schorr:

And you were by his side.

Paul Rabuck:

Right.

Andrew Schorr:

So, Paul, you had survived myeloma for a little bit then, but here was your father dying from it then. How could you keep going? Some people would say, this is too close, too tough, and that’s me.

Paul Rabuck:

Well, I told my dad, he skipped, he missed myeloma for 30 years, more than I did. So he actually came out on the better side of the stick. And I went with him to the doctor on a weekly basis where he got his injections or got what was scheduled for him. We walked in, then we walked in with a cane, then we walked in with a walker, then we went in with a wheelchair. And then he was bedridden, and then he died, a natural progression, the way things are supposed to be.

Andrew Schorr:

Yeah, but it hasn’t been that way for you. How do you account for that?

Paul Rabuck:

Well, I was younger than he was, and things have progressed since then. They have new treatments, and I participate in a couple clinical trials here at MD Anderson. And I think that both of them have extended my life expectancy, because the new drugs and things that are coming out. They’ve taken really good care of me here.

Andrew Schorr:

How do you feel about that? You’re diagnosed with a fatal condition, and yet medicine’s been moving along, and you’ve been able to take advantage of some, living at the right time.

Paul Rabuck:

That’s definitely true. I’ve always said that prayer and a positive attitude and the capable hands of these doctors and then if you don’t get well, then you just flat don’t want to. None of us are getting off this planet alive anyway, so I’m fairly religious. And I do believe in a hereafter. o I’ve often wondered if Heaven is such a great place, why are we always wanting to take a later flight? So I look forward to it.

Andrew Schorr:

So you’re still not even at the airport yet. You’re here. So people who are watching this interview, some of them newly diagnosed, and they’re back at that stage with wrong information as you were, hopefully they are getting on track. What would you say to them, everybody’s different, but to help them keep going?

Paul Rabuck:

I think attitude has a whole lot to do with it.You have to have a positive attitude that you’re going to make it. We all go through the, why me, Lord? And then we say our little prayer saying, I’d really like to see one grandchild born. Well, now I’ve got nine grandkids, so things have been good. And, again, I think that there’s some divine intervention that goes on and for a purpose we might not realize what it is. But when it’s our time to go, it will be our time to go. And there’s nothing you can do about that. You just turn it over to the Lord.

 

Andrew Schorr:

So the responsibilities of a patient now as far as finding the right doctors, collaborating with them, sitting in clinical trials, going through the tests, all that—how do you carry on as a patient, make sure that you do everything that you can?

Paul Rabuck:

Yes, ma’am, works real well with my doctor. No, she’s been, I have Dr. Weber, great doctor. And when I got here, I guess I had a flip in attitude. She said there was a chance of one in a million that I didn’t have cancer, and I stuck out my hand and said, well, you’re meeting Mr. One in a Million. And shortly thereafter, she enlightened me about what I was facing, and my wife and I both were in tears about it. And she did get our attention, and we’ve followed her advice and guidance since. And I’ve had several bumps in the road. And when I did, they knew exactly what to do and how to correct the problem I had. So between grandma seizures and blood clots and other problems, I’m still here. Like I say they’re doing a great job.

Andrew Schorr:

Let’s talk about the bumps in the road. So how would you counsel people to let them know it’s a journey?

Paul Rabuck:

God won’t put things in front of you that you can’t handle. And it is a journey, and we are faced with decisions all along. And you look to the people like your doctor, physicians and all what is the best guidance on which direction you ought to head. And they’re basing everything on experience. They’ve seen thousands of people with the same I have, so it would be wrong for me to err from their judgement. And I think if you just put the trust in the doctors here, and they’ll take care of you. And, again, like I said, we’re not getting off this world alive. When it’s our time to go, it will be our time to go.

Andrew Schorr:

Just basic to that since people around the world may see this, is you have to start by finding a medical team that you trust.

Paul Rabuck:

Right.

Andrew Schorr:

What would you say? ‘Cause you didn’t in China.

Paul Rabuck:

We flew halfway around the world to find the right place. And I did not want to be on my death bed saying, God, I wish I’d gone to MD Anderson, ‘cause that is the place to go in the world. Not that other places don’t have adequate treatment. I’m sure that MD Anderson shares all of their knowledge with other places in the world, but again when you go to a doctor who has seen many many cases of what you have, your chances of survival are gonna be better, because they know what to expect, whereas we as an individual don’t.

Andrew Schorr:

How about asking questions? You feel comfortable to ask and learn?

Paul Rabuck:

They’re very forthcoming with questions. In fact, the problem’s usually that I don’t ask enough questions. I go to my monthly meetings, and they run my numbers and tell me what’s going on. I’m probably going to spend most of my time talking about where I want to go on vacation or things like that when I should ask for their guidance if I do have a problem, I need to let them know everything that’s going on.

Andrew Schorr:

Couple things. You have three boys, nine grandchildren. How do you either ask for help or let people know how you’re doing? Help them feel better?

Paul Rabuck:

My family’s been very supportive. I have a very strong wife, and we have gone through all of this for the past 15 years. And there are times when I get a little depressed or whatever. My fatigue is bothering me, or my steroids are making me be the grumpiest person around. And she knows that’s what’s going on. And rather than building on that, she just ignores it and has me go do something else to get away from her. But like I said, the family’s been very supportive. They’re very concerned. And, in turn, when I come to my monthly treatments here, I always manage to find somebody who is just starting out and let them know that you can be a 15-year survivor or 20 or wherever. We haven’t set the record yet, but we’re looking to do it.

Andrew Schorr:

One last thing and that is communication. So you and your family talk about things. Some people try to keep it bottled up. You don’t.

Paul Rabuck:

No, we, well, it’s an excuse for how I act sometimes. So they all understand. In fact, I’m a member of the Anderson network here, and that’s where people with myeloma can call in. The Anderson network gives me their phone number and a credit card where I can call them, and we talk about what you can really expect. I mean a doctor this and that doesn’t hurt, but the person who’s actually been there can tell you yeah, it did or it didn’t have anything to it. And we have experience that people have called in the past, and forgetting my name they knew my last name, and they called my son. And when he asked the question of my son, the son had the answer to what the guy was looking for on this particular drug was gonna be. So it is a family affair, and they’ve been supportive. And I think it is important to share that with others who, like I said, are just starting on their journey.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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