HOMEPAGE: www.danieljvance

 

  DISABILITIES

  By Daniel J. Vance

 

  You likely don't know Julie Roettger. But her story of disability is tailor-made for the Christmas season.

  "It was April 2001 when I first found out," Roettger said about learning she had multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. "I was getting increasingly tired. We attributed it to being busy at church and homeschooling three kids. Then I had an unexplained arm fracture and I couldn't keep food down."

  Doctors didn't diagnose multiple myeloma immediately because it usually strikes older, African-American men. Julie is a 38-year-old Caucasian woman.

  The Mayo Clinic defines the disease as a cancer of bone marrow plasma cells that erodes the strength of bones. Besides bone marrow, it affects the immune system and often kidneys. About 50,000 Americans have the disease, with 15,000 being diagnosed and more than 10,000 dying annually. Julie uses a cane to walk. She has abnormal myeloma cells in her lower legs and elbow.

  Since April 2001, she has had at Mayo Clinic two bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, and when that recently stopped working, radiation. The doctors used her own bone marrow for the first transplant when none of her three brothers matched. Soon after the transplant, doctors learned her father was a perfect match, which is extremely rare.

  "It was humbling having to ask him to go through that for me," Roettger said. "He had to take growth hormone shots that could make him sick, then have anesthesia, and also have surgery in which doctors removed two liters of bone marrow from his pelvis." Through it all, her parents helped homeschool their children, ages 12, 9, and 7. Stays at Mayo Clinic were especially difficult during the holiday season and family birthdays.

  She has cancer. So is she angry with God this Christmas season?

  "Though I don't understand, there is some reason for having this cancer," she said. "I feel that God is with me. There are so many people praying, it's unbelievable. Some of my biggest blessings in life have come from this experience. It also has been a wakeup call to cherish time with my husband and children."

  As for her marriage vows, she said that when she promised to stay with her husband through sickness, she never thought that she would be the one sick. Husband Jim works for a California-based software company as a computer programmer. "He has been amazing," she said.

  For more, see www.mayoclinic.com and www.danieljvance.com