Multiple Myeloma is a form of cancer that is usually seen in African American males age 60 and over. Obviously, Brandon is an extremely atypical case! The essential features of this disease are: its appearance in the marrow as malignant plasma cells; its involvement in multiple sites in marrow; its destruction of bone; and its association with abnormal proteins in the urine and in the blood.
Basically, plasma cells are present in abnormally large number in patients with myeloma. The cells accumulate in an uncontrolled manner and form tumors in the marrow. In consequence, the abnormal plasma cells also create large amounts of a single type of protein (monoclonal immunoglobulin or M Protein) which is then secreted into the blood. Normally, plasma cells create several types of proteins which are antibodies that protect the body. By contrast, the production of M protein does not protect the body against infection while at the same time, those healthy proteins aren’t being produced.
Another special feature of myeloma cells is that they secrete chemicals that stimulate other cells that dissolve bone. Although bone is constantly being broken down and remodeled, the chemicals that are secreted cause the breakdown to happen faster than the remodeling. Thus, the bone is thinned and can be weakened enough to break with normal stresses such as walking or lifting. Slightly increased stresses of coughing and minor falls or injuries can also break the bones when they are thinned by the effects of myeloma.
Bone pain is the most common early symptom of myeloma. Most patients feel pain in their back or ribs, but it can occur in any bone. The pain is usually made worse by movement, so we can only imagine the pain Brandon has endured as he has been working and going to school full-time throughout the past few months.
--The Plewe Family