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When Your Mom Has Myeloma: A Daughter’s Mental Health Struggle

When Your Mom Has Myeloma: A Daughter’s Mental Health Struggle
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Published on March 15, 2019

angelina-rineker[Editor’s note: (10/2019): Cherie Rineker had a long battle with myeloma that included 16 lines of myeloma therapy, numerous hospitalizations, and incredible physical and emotional stress. She decided to end her battle with myeloma with physician assistance in Colorado by using the End of Life Options Act. Cherie was an incredible source of inspiration who embraced healthy living and the latest in cancer treatments. She will be remembered as a myeloma advocate leader with a big smile that lit up a room. Cherie's personal motto was, “It was always about love anyway.”

If you know about multiple myeloma you’ve probably heard of my mother. 

Her name is Cherie Rineker. She is an activist for legalizing medical marijuana, an advocate for myeloma patients, the author of A Pilgrimage Without End - How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart but, best of all, she is also my mother. She has been there for me through thick and thin. She has cared for me more than she has cared for herself, and instead of focusing on her health she focuses on mine. I will always look up to her for what she has done and gone through, and she will always be my inspiration. 

In all honesty, I believe I might have died by my own hands had it not been for my mom always being there, helping me work through my anxiety and depression, and by teaching me how to talk back to the voices in my head. Even though her cancer has cursed me with four anxiety disorders, I am so grateful that she is alive and that sheis my mother.

In 2012, my mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable and often deadly blood cancer that destroys the bones. When my mother was diagnosed, she was very sick and probably would have died within months if she hadn’t sought medical attention. 

angelina-guitarIn 2013, she received the first of her two stem cell transplants. The treatment was extremely tough on her body and mind and, because of all the chemo, pain and nausea, she had suicidal fantasies. Thankfully, the doctor took her off some of the myeloma treatment, and she went to see a psychiatrist. Soon she started to feel better as her cancer numbers dropped drastically. Unfortunately, about a year later the cancer started acting up again. My mother had to stay on chemo and then had to go back for another stem cell transplant. Blah, blah, blah, more chemo.

At this time, my mother’s mental state had recovered, but my own mental health was slowly deteriorating. As a result, I was having panic attacks almost every day. I was falling into depression and starting to have suicidal thoughts myself at the ripe age of 9 years old. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and functioning normally in everyday activities was becoming harder and harder. I was trying to cope with a mother who had an aggressive cancer that kept returning and a stressed-out father. For some reason, I also took on guilt for the sudden death of my dog, and I was being bullied. 

When I was 10, my mother was recovering well, and her cancer had once again dropped. We had great hope she might actually go into complete remission. My family and I were overjoyed.

By age 11, my mother’s cancer came back, we were running out of options, and I developed paranoia and obsessive-compulsive disofer (OCD). At age 12, my mother’s physical state was diminishing quickly, and we had only one option left, without which she would die: a CAR-T trial. My mother went to Nashville, Tennessee and had great success with the trial. There were no longer any signs of cancer left in her body.

I am now 13 years old, and my mother is still alive! She is doing better than ever, and she is still in remission. I am extremely grateful for CAR-T, since without it both me and my mother would not be here. While her six-year journey with cancer has left me and my family haunted with an aftermath we are still battling every day, we feel incredibly blessed and happy that it wasn’t worse.

Angelina Rineker
Student, daughter and artist

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