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'The most horrible thing I’d ever been through' | Memphis man battled COVID-19 and Multiple Myeloma

“I recommend that all patients with myeloma have the COVID-19 vaccination including their booster,” said Dr. Frits van Rhee, UAMS Myeloma Center Clinical Director.
Credit: Wayne Coleman

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many are saddened by the death of former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

General Powell died from complications of COVID-19 while also battling multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.

Wayne Coleman, a Memphis resident who battles that same illness and also had COVID, will never forget walking through hospital halls.

“It was almost like I could see COVID floating in the air,” said Coleman.

Coleman was sent to emergency after developing blood clots. It was a side effect of medication he took for multiple myeloma.

“For the first few weeks, I’m feeling bad thinking that I’m recovering from the PE, pulmonary embolism,” said Coleman.

It was COVID-19.

“During the day, my fever would spike to 102, 103, and I would sweat all day,” said Coleman. “I was in bed for four weeks and I missed all of January... I had never in my life been in a situation where I thought that I might die.”

A battle with COVID, along with myeloma, put Coleman at his worst.

It is the same cancer former US Secretary of State Colin Powell battled while also fighting COVID. His death reminds people of the COVID risks with underlying health conditions.

“That has scared me more than any of this cancer stuff,” said Coleman. “It was literally the most horrible thing I’d ever been through. I’d go through stem cell transplants left and right after that.”

“Myeloma is one of the blood cancers. It affects the very cells that produce antibodies,” said Dr. Frits van Rhee, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Myeloma Center Clinical Director. “If you do get myeloma, the normal plasma cells get crowded out by cancerous plasma cells. These cells don’t make antibodies. They don’t make normal antibodies... Patients with myeloma have weakened immune systems. This is aggravated further by the fact that they are receiving treatment for their blood cancer.”

Myeloma can sometimes cause little to no antibody response to the COVID vaccine.

Still, doctors say that should not stop patients from getting vaccinated.

“I recommend that all patients with myeloma have the COVID-19 vaccination including their booster,” said Dr. van Rhee.

If you are not a myeloma patient, Coleman pled, “Think selflessly. Think about the fact that you may run into somebody that’s immune-compromised... The key message is you’re not doing this for yourself.”

Dr. van Rhee said there is also antibody preparation available for myeloma patients who have been exposed or are infected with COVID. He recommends those patients reach out to their doctors.

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