Tests showed Bill had Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia. According to the American Cancer Society website, WM is rare, with about 1,000 to 1,500 people diagnosed each year in the U.S.
It’s more common in men than woman (about twice as common) and more common among whites and in seniors. Mid-60s is the average age at the time of diagnosis, the ACS website also said.
“The diagnosis was devastating,” Bill said. “To go from not being sick was like going from 0 to 100. ... It was mind-altering, to say the least.”
Because of WM’s rarity, the Cunneas researched their best options for treatment and decided to head down to MD Anderson Cancer Center. Bill was diagnosed in April 2016. He and Kim went down in May and stayed for 10 days, where Bill underwent tests and his doctor made a treatment plan: “pretty intense cycles of chemotherapy for two years.”
“It was a pretty tough run for him,” Kim said.
Fortunately, Bill could stay close to home for the bulk of treatments, which Bill said he had at Edward Hospital in Naperville, and then follow-up in Houston.
“One of the things we found out is how sick he actually was,” Kim said. “If he had hit his head, he might have bled out.”
Still, Bill felt his overall healthy lifestyle helped him cope with his chemotherapy regimen.
“I think because I’m active and work out, I was able to tolerate the treatment better than many other who don’t have an active life,” Bill said. “But what was really different was the mental piece. That’s where the caregiver part comes in. My family and Kim really helped me through some dark times.”
But Kim foundered, too. After first, Kim found solace in making the appointments, paying bills, filling out insurance claims and making arrangements for Houston.