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Alumnus writes book for multiple myeloma survivors and their caregivers

Friday, August 27 2021 04:00pm

Bond credits daily exercise with helping him stay alive for the past 29 years. In his book, he talks about some of the other strategies that have helped him cope and survive, such as seeking second opinions, participating in clinical trials, partnering with his medical team, and asking for help when he needed it.

By Megan Bulow 

When the country shut down because of COVID in the spring of 2020, James D. Bond, BBA ’70, decided to dedicate some time to writing about his experiences surviving multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. One thing led to another, and Bond was soon the author of The Man in the Arena: Surviving Multiple Myeloma Since 1992.

In the book, Bond describes how he and his wife, Kathleen, AA ’70, approached his initial diagnosis and strategies patients and caregivers can use to manage the challenges they face. One of the Bonds’ rules is they can’t talk about cancer after 8 p.m.

“It started as a 9 p.m. rule. We were driving ourselves crazy. We’d each be thinking about one more thing. At some point, we said that’s enough—8 p.m. done,” Bond said. “It’s a great example of teamwork. We have to draw a line here.”

The Bonds have learned how to focus on the positive since his initial diagnosis back in 1992. At the time, Bond went to see his doctor for a routine physical examination that was required for his job. His doctor had some concerns, and Bond was sent to another doctor for additional testing.   

“The doctor noticed I had something wrong and kept running test after test,” Bond said. When Bond learned of the seriousness of his diagnosis, he asked the oncologist what he would do if he were in the same position. “He told me, ‘The most you will get is three years. And that’s if everything goes well. If I were you, I might do my bucket list.’”

The upsetting diagnosis and the doctor’s suggestion reminded Bond of another time in his life when he had received difficult news. After deciding to attend Ohio University to play baseball, he was cut from the team because of a lingering sport injury from high school, a setback that seemed devastating at the time.

He tried to play again the following year, and he was especially excited about the prospect of playing with Mike Schmidt, who went on to play for the Philadelphia Phillies for 18 seasons and became a Major League Baseball legend. Unfortunately, Bond was cut again related to his injuries.

“I really wanted to play on OHIO’s team. I drew on that experience and said to my wife, ‘A lot of good things came from that setback. Studying hard in school and getting a good job.’ You never know how these things will turn out,” he said. “Here I am 29 years later. A lot of good things happened from getting cancer.”

When baseball didn’t turn out as he planned, Bond committed to studying accounting, and he was able to achieve the top spot in the College of Business, which led to several job offers with firms in major cities. He ended up in Boston and spent 39 years with Ernst & Young. Bond credits Ohio University with giving him opportunities to grow and reach his full potential.  

“You can get all the education you ever want at Ohio University. It’s a question of how hard you want to work and what you want to put into it,” he said.

While his time at the University was transformational academically, it also was life-changing when he met Kathleen (known as Kathy Mercer at the time) during his junior year. They met through friends, and Bond recalled how she once saw his funny name, James Bond, on a board advertising ride shares. Unfortunately, his car was full by the time she inquired.

The news of Bond’s cancer diagnosis hit them both like “a bolt of lightning,” as Bond described it, but with Kathleen by his side, he always had a strong advocate in his corner. Bond successfully managed to live with myeloma for 10 years until 2002 when his cancer started to take a turn for the worse. His doctor advised hospice care.

Bond was determined to find another option. Fortunately, he found a clinical trial, but he and Kathleen would need to relocate to Boston for nine months for him to be able to participate.

They decided to move because the clinical trial seemed like his best chance for survival. When they arrived in their hotel room in Boston he was so ill that Kathleen wasn’t sure he would make it through the night. She called for help, and the person who answered the call was the head of the myeloma program Bond was starting.

“He calmed her down. ‘Kathleen, did anyone here tell you yet your husband is the seventh patient admitted to the program. His number is 007. I think that’s good karma,’” Bond said. The reference to the familiar code number of the famous British secret agent who shares Bond’s name seemed like a good sign.

Bond recovered in time to participate in the clinical trial and within two weeks (four doses of the drug), 99% of his cancer went into remission. The drug, Velcade, is now used worldwide for myeloma patients.

“The drug company was just starting out, and they didn’t have any sales yet. They had never seen results like they got from me. I became a huge believer in clinical trials,” he said.

The Bonds knew they were fortunate with their education and the stage of life they were in that they could move to Boston for the clinical trial. But they wondered what other people who don’t have resources would do if they faced similar circumstances.

Kathleen has volunteered with the American Cancer Society (ACS) for more than 40 years and served for a time on the ACS national board. To support cancer patients and their caregivers, she came up with the idea for the Pan Ohio Hope Ride, a 328-mile, four-day bike ride across Ohio to fundraise for the ACS Hope Lodge program. There are around 30 Hope Lodge locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that offer free lodging for patients and their caregivers if the patient needs to get treatment in another city.

Bond was eager to support the Pan Ohio Hope Ride, but he didn’t cycle or even own a bike.

“I watched her for two years figure this out and get it launched. I felt like I had to show a lot of interest. I bought a bike and asked experienced cyclists to give advice,” he said. “I rode that for 12 straight years. That made me feel good not only for myself, but it’s sending a good signal to other people sitting at home who have incurable cancers.”

Jim On Bike 2

Bond raises an arm in victory at the conclusion of one of the Pan Ohio Hope Rides.


 

Bond credits daily exercise with helping him stay alive for the past 29 years. In his book, he talks about some of the other strategies that have helped him cope and survive, such as seeking second opinions, participating in clinical trials, partnering with his medical team, and asking for help when he needed it. For those who are recently diagnosed with cancer, he offers the following advice:

“Stay calm. Look at it as another life challenge. Give it your best shot. And never give up.”

Bond hopes that the book will give others experiencing the same thing hope and help them navigate the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.

“I want to give folks something to say, ‘If that guy can do it, there’s no reason I can’t do it,’” he said. “We offer no medical advice. If they want some hope, they are welcome to email me. I get emails from all over the world. It helps me to help them.”



James D. Bond welcomes contact through his personal email, Jim.bond48@gmail.com. More information about his book is available at Arenamanbook.wordpress.com. The book’s proceeds are donated to the International Myeloma Foundation, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Mayo Clinic, University Hospitals of Cleveland, and the American Cancer Society.