Stories of Hope

Arno Muller: Ninety Years Old and a 36 Year Survivor of WM

Arno Muller: Ninety Years Old and a 36 Year Survivor of WM

 

I am 90 years old, play tennis doubles twice a week, and walk 2 miles daily.

I have also lived with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia since 1986.

I immigrated to the United States from Chile in 1957.  My physically active lifestyle carried me through my school years.  I joined the Chilean rowing team as a university student and competed in the 1954 Rio de Janeiro South American Championship and the 1955 Mexico City Pan American Olympics.

This provided a solid health foundation.  Despite my healthy lifestyle, I developed visual problems nearly three decades later, leading to a cataract removal and lens implant in 1984.  A pre-surgery blood test found a hematologic problem for this then-53-year-old person who considered himself perfectly healthy.

Two years later, I was diagnosed with WM.  Get your affairs in order, I was told, because the statistical survival rate was five years from the time of diagnosis.  At the time, three of my four children were in college, and I decided to ignore this grim news.  Feeling immortal, I continued bicycling, swimming, and hiking.  This proved to be a wise move, and I ended up suspending biannual blood tests until 2000 after I retired at age 68.

In 2003, however, physical exercise became a struggle. A blood test would reveal igM ^8000 and viscosity ^3.5. Two days of plasmapheresis and four weekly Rituxan infusions followed. In half a year, I was back enjoying the beach and feeling immortal!

But living in paradise exacted a toll. I have had cancer surgery of the lip, nose, prostate, hernia and melanoma. The WM story is:

  • 1986: diagnosis of WM
  • 2004: 2x plasmapheresis + 4x weekly Rituxan
  • 2010: 4x weekly Rituxan
  • 2012: 4x weekly Rituxan
  • 2013: 5x monthly Bendamustine + Rituxan
  • 2018: 280 MG Imbruvica daily

I have the superstition that I can defy all cancers with a healthy lifestyle that includes bicycling, swimming, and playing tennis daily.  I eat plenty of nuts, fruits, and vegetables.  I drink V8 Juice, fruit juices, and one mug of coffee and glass of wine a day.  I favor fish and chicken for meat and try to avoid “factory-made” food.

Cancer aside, I have been infected with Covid twice, including a breakthrough infection in January 2022 that resulted in mild flu-like symptoms for two weeks.  Playing tennis doubles twice a week is now a challenge, and I reduced my daily walks from 3.5 miles to 2 miles.

But I continue to persevere.

Arno Muller
Virginia Beach, VA
April 2022