Twelve years ago Myde Stocker went to war.
Clad in a green battle style jacket and a sequined baseball cap she fought for her life from a hospital bed at Brigham and Women’s Medical Center. With an ever-present smile on her face and her family by her side, the Peabody resident endured painful radiation and a life-saving stem-cell transplant that would eventually send her Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer, into remission.
Cancer treatment was much more primitive in 1999 and Stocker, speaking to her husband and two children on video phone, was kept in isolation for eight weeks as she underwent treatment for her disease.
Some days were down right miserable, between the pain and the worry and the loneliness, but Stocker kept fighting.
“I was scared, but I just kept telling everyone to keep a positive attitude, positive karma, if they were going to be negative and come around with negative thoughts I just said ‘please stay away,’ she said. “You just listen to the doctors and you do what they say. My daughter (at the time a high school junior) would really get upset about it, but I just kept telling her ‘No. I am not going to die.’”
Her positive attitude coupled with what at the time was state of the art treatment allowed Stocker to see her daughter graduate college and her son graduate high school. For eight-and-a-half years she lived a normal, cancer-free life, visiting the Dana Farber Cancer Institute just once a year for routine checkups.
It was St. Patrick’s Day 2009. Stocker had been feeling under the weather for a few weeks, but she assumed it was just a typical, end of winter sniffles, probably contracted from someone at the office. But her family wasn’t so sure. The cold had lingered for too long and, at the urging of her husband, she made the decision to have her checkup early and headed to Dana Farber to make sure everything was in order.
“My family was all over me to go to Dana Farber and get checked out, because they knew it was a risk. I figured it was just allergies or a cold that wouldn’t go away,” she said. “But the day I went to Dana Farber for what I thought was going to be a check up they asked me right there, ‘Is there any reason you can’t go to treatment today?’ I said ‘I guess not’ and they put me right in. You don’t want (the cancer to be back) but you look at those numbers and you see that it is.”
The diagnosis was devastating to Myde and her entire family. But, as she still fights today, two-and-a-half-years later, she says one of the brightest spots of the whole experience has been the astronomical advancements in the treatment of her disease.
“When I came back in to the system I could not believe how much had changed in such a short time. Even since 2009 when I was first diagnosed the second time,” she said. “ I used to have to go to Dana Farber twice a week for two-and-a-half-hours, and you have to get there early for blood work, too, so it really ends up being all day. But now I can take a pill for my radiation, at home, 21 days on and 7 days off. It is truly amazing.”
Stocker also can now take a pill that instantaneously gets rid of the nausea associated with radiation therapy.
These are the kinds of advancements, she says, that the American Cancer Society and other organizations like the Multiple Myloma Research Foundation are able to make with the money donated through charity efforts such as the annual Peabody Relay For Life cancer walk.
“What a difference (these new drugs) make in the treatment. It is amazing,” she said. “That is what the American Cancer Society is all about, helping patients get better and live better. People get the wrong idea. They think these charities are all just high-paid CEO’s taking their money and not giving enough to actual research. Well, I can tell you that isn’t the case. .79 cents of every dollar goes right to research and they have made so much progress in such a short time.”
Stocker will be in attendance at Relay for Life again this year with her team, Myde’s Minions, lighting the night with bright yellow shirts. She says the walk is not just important because it raises money for research, rather, it brings families of victims and survivors together in a showing of love and support.
“Relay isn’t just for people with cancer or their teams,” she said. “It is to appeal to everyone to come see what the teams do. Come at 9 p.m. and see the luminary walk. See how emotional it is to see those bags lit up all around the track with the names of people who have lost their battle. There is a TV screen that scrolls all of the names of them people being honored or memorialized. We used to read them, but now there are just so many that we can’t.”
The Relay for Life will take place Friday, June 17 from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. at the track.
There is a survivor lap at 6 p.m. where survivors, patients and their families can sign up, and the luminary walk begins at 9 p.m. Each individual team will have raffle tickets for sale on site, with all proceeds going toward the cause.