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Myeloma – Chemo-induced Atrial Fibrillation- (Afib)

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My diagnosis of multiple myeloma led to induction chemotherapy, stem cell mobilization and an autologous stem cell transplant all in 1995. Fifteen years later, in late 2010, I developed chronic atrial fibrillation aka Afib.

While I live with a dozen or so long-term and late stage side effects from my chemo and radiation therapies during my active treatment in ’95-’97, it is my heart disease, my chemotherapy-induced Cardiomyopathy (CIC) combined with my atrial fibrillation (Afib) that present the most dramatic daily challenges to me.

Cardiotoxic chemotherapies, listed below, causing Afib 15 years after active therapy is my definition of a late stage side effect.

  • Vincristine
  • Doxorubicin
  • Cytoxan/cyclophosphomide
  • Busulphan
  • Melphalan

In order to address my mantra “I wish I knew then what I know now” this post will define chemotherapy-induce atrial fibrillation, and discuss possible therapies shown to heal or at least stabilize Afib.

The issue is to determine 1) what health risks are caused by Afib, and 2) what therapies will heal or at least stabilize Afib.

I was talking to a nurse when I had just been diagnosed with chronic Afib. When she stated “lots of people live their entire lives with afib without medication,” I decided, right then and there, not to live a life of heart medications including:

  • Beta blockers, 
  • Calcium channel blockers, 
  • Antiarrhythmics, 
  • Anticoagulants.

My previous experiences with toxic therapies taught me that all FDA approved medications come at a “quality-of-life” price. I read hundreds of online group posts of cardiomyopathy survivors complaining of the side effects of their medications. My cancer survivor experience has taught me that if I can avoid toxic therapies then I will live a better (QOL), longer life.

The key was to figure out my risks of living with chronic Afib (stroke) and to research evidence-based, non-toxic therapies proven to reduce those risks.

Benefit of this therapy? 

When I underwent my induction therapy of Vincristine, Adriamycin and Dexamethasone (VAD), there was about a 67% response rate- partial, complete. I was was a partial response. At the time (1995), this was standard induction therapy for MM. Knowing what I know now, I have a difficult time understanding why my oncologist prescribed such a damaging chemo cocktail that provided a partial response bringing me little if any extra life.

I feel the same way about melphalan, busulfan and cytoxan. Incredibly cardio-toxic chemotherapy regimens. I just don’t get why conventional oncology prescribes these destructive therapies.

Alternatives to these therapies?

From diagnosis of full multiple myeloma in 2/95 to being told I was “end-stage” in 9/97, I lived for 31 months. Assuming I would live for another 6-12 months in “end-stage” MM, I estimate I would live with aggressive, conventional treatments for about 43 months.

I know I’m biased but I have a difficult time thinking that aggressive, conventional therapies lengthened my life much, if at all. Possible alternative therapies to cardio-toxic chemotherapy then, would be all of the anti-MM supplements listed in the MM CC  supplementation guide and all of the non-conventional therapies in that guide.

Therapies to reduce my risk of stroke?

This is the important section of this post. There are many evidence-based but non-toxic therapies proven to reduce my risk stroke.

While this is a pretty complete list of stroke-lowering evidence-based, non-toxic therapies, they represent only a portion of the therapies I undergo daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

My point is, I don’t take any Afib medications and I manage my Afib risks fully.

If you have questions or comments please scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Thanks for your time and attention.

David Emerson

  • MM Survivor 
  • MM Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Recommended Reading:

Chemotherapy-Induced Arrhythmias, Atrial Fibrillation, Afib

“Sudden death with documented or suspected ventricular arrhythmias has been reported with almost all classes of chemotherapeutic drugs but rarely…”

‘A-fib’ heart problem more common than thought, doctor finds

“Several million older Americans have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, the abnormal heart rhythm abbreviated as A-fib, because they experienced symptoms such as palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath…

Yet many others may have the heart condition without realizing it, raising their risk of ,..

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 percent of people age 65 and up have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation

Patients with are typically counseled to take blood-thinning medications called anticoagulants. That is because during an episode of A-fib, the patient’s blood may stagnate and form a dangerous clot, leading to a stroke.

Atrial Fibrilation-Catheter Ablation More Popular But Complications Rise

Catheter ablation (for afib) volumes rose 2.5-fold during the study period…The overall in-hospital complication rate increased during the study period from 3.07% to 7.04%…”

As I was sitting in the hospital waiting area I was talking with a floor nurse who told me, straight out, “people who develop a-fib can live for their entire lives without therapy.

Knowing that all therapies, all medications come with side effects, right then and there I decided not to pursue any conventional therapies for my afib…”

Xarelto Lawsuit Highlights Risks of Conventional Blood Thinners

“Given all this information, people who are on Xarelto, or those caring for those who are, may have some concerns.

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy for Chemotherapy-Induced Cardiomyopathy

“To quote the top article linked below, “the clinical composite response was unchanged in 50% but actually worsened in 16%; and 35% had a reduction in left ventricular (LV) end-systolic volume of 15% while 9% had LV volumes actually increased by >15%.

Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death among Atrial Fibrillation Patients (me)

“As a person living with cardiomyopathy, my take on that statement is that the people who die of SCD have a sicker heart on average than other heart failure patients. No magic here, just statistical analysis of a group of afib patients who die for cardiovascular reasons who have weak hearts.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that yes, afib patients have an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. But the degree or size of this risk is largely based on how sick your heart it. Yes, afib means your heart is sick. But it could be worse…”

Stroke Prevention Diet and Supplementation

“…greens turned out to be associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases, including a 20% reduction of stroke for every additional serving.”

I live with an increased risk of stroke. I have chronic atrial fibrillation. Being a bit handicapped I am somewhat sedentary during my day. I try to make up for these two increased stroke risks (afib and sedentary lifestyle) by eating foods and taking supplements that will reduce my stroke risk. Or, to put it differently, I’m looking for relatively easy therapies to reduce my stroke risk. “Easy” might be the wrong word but I hope you understand my thinking…

Leave a Comment:

Sally says last year

I have AFIB caused by idarubicin, my first dose of chemo for my APL leukemia. I’m 6 years in remission but still dealing with this horrible “side effect”. They want me to take xarelto or Eliquis but the side effects of either one of those could be disastrous. In your opinion would a vegan diet be better than a Mediterranean diet? I appreciate any ideas you have on this. Thanks for what you’re doing because yours is the first group that I’ve seen that is talking about this. 🙂

    David Emerson says last year

    Hi Sally-

    Your situation sounds similar to mine- Afib caused by chemotherapy. I was prescribed warfarin as a blood thinner and metoprolol to reduce BP but side effects from each were difficult for me.

    I do agree that atrial fibrillation increases the risk of a stroke. And I also agree that FDA blood thinners will reduce our risk of a blood clot and or stroke.

    However, there are evidence-based but non-conventional therapies shown to also reduce our risk of blood clot and stroke.

    I tried eating a vegan diet awhile back but found the diet to be problematic for many reasons. I consider myself to be almost vegetarian. Yes, I consider the Mediterranean Diet to be a good diet for heart health.

    I supplement as well. What I do and have been doing for years is omega-3 fatty acids, wobenzyme N (enzymes), nattokwinase, almost a vegetarian diet, daily exercise (but nothing strenuous of course)- all to say I live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Hang in there,

    David Emerson

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