On Sunday, October 14th, 2012, I will be participating in the 5K Walk to Conquer Cancer to help raise funds for Multiple Myeloma Research. This walk is part of a much bigger event — the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This will be my first-ever public fundraising event. Yes, I’ve participated in charity events in the past, but I’ve always donated, never asked for donations. So, why did I decide to put myself out there — yes, it’s hard to ask for money — and ask you to sponsor me or join me in the walk?
If you’re reading this blog post, then you already know that, in February, 2012, my wife, Munira, was diagnosed with not one, but two, blood cancers: Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma and Multiple Myeloma. Thankfully, after six cycles of chemotherapy, and due to God’s grace, your prayers and good wishes, and Munira’s terrifically positive attitude, she beat the Lymphoma and it’s in remission. On August 2nd, she began weekly chemotherapy treatments for the Multiple Myeloma.
Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in the blood and bone marrow and there is no known cure at this time. In the early days, the prognosis for myeloma patients was not good. More recently, however, treatment therapies have helped patients extend their lives for many, many years. When Munira was diagnosed, her oncologist, Dr. Rodger Tiedemann, indicated that the median survival rate was approximately 5 years after treatment. He then comforted us by saying that given Munira’s relatively young age (the typical age of multiple myeloma patients is 60+), her relatively good health (no chronic diseases like diabetes, etc.), and the fact that she did not appear to have any bone involvement and was pain free, she had an excellent chance of surviving for 10+ years. And, at the current rate of progress, in 10 years, we will have found a permanent cure for this cancer.
Now, there are many charities out there (over 150 raising funds on October 14th alone!). And, there are many charities raising funds for different cancers. So, why should you support Multiple Myeloma research?
Because, we have, right here in our backyard — at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) in Toronto, one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world! In 2009, Mr. David Bloom, former CEO of Shoppers Drug Mart and a Multiple Myeloma patient himself, contributed and helped raise $4.1 million to set up a research chair specifically for Multiple Myeloma research. The Molly and David Bloom Chair for Multiple Myeloma Research (the “Bloom Chair”) has since grown to $10 million, thanks in part to the funds raised through the 5K Walk to Conquer Cancer.
In 2010, these funds helped PMH recruit a “brilliant, New Zealand trained hematologist/oncologist from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona” — none other than Dr. Rodger Tiedemann, Munira’s doctor!
You will find it fascinating to read the donor report prepared by Dr. Donna Reece, the director of the Multiple Myeloma Program at PMH, on how the funds are used by the team.
Please click here for the full report: Bloom Chair 5k update 2012
Here are some highlights:
- The Clinical Research program, consisting of 8 research coordinators, 4 registered nurses and a research clerk, is funded mainly by government, industry and national cancer charities; however, the rising costs of clinical research are leading to shortfalls in funding.
- It is now known that one of the highest risk groups of myeloma patients are those with a deletion of the P53 gene. The team is planning an expert symposium this year in Toronto focusing on this genetic mutation.
- Over the next few years, the program will focus on monitoring selected patients through multi-parameter flow cytometry and whole genome sequencing. This will allow for a deeper look at the tumour cell, how it is acquired (i.e. how does this cancer start in a person?), and better drug treatments.
- Ultimately, the goal is to answer the questions: Why does this cancer happen? How can we treat it? And, What can we do to prevent it?
- This year, the program will be purchasing a state-of-the-art myeloma database. Until now, data from the 3,000 myeloma patients who have been referred to PMH has been entered manually into Excel spreadsheets. The new database will integrate all of this data with new, real-time information. So, for example, every time Munira and other myeloma patients come to the hospital for blood tests, etc., the data will be captured automatically in this database. The goal is to let technology do the work – and find patterns to help fight and find a cure for the cancer. The project has been estimated at $140,000, of which $50,000 has been received through a grant, and the shortfall is $90,000. Funds raised at this year’s walk will be donated towards this project, through the Bloom Chair.
This is a specific example of how your funds will be used towards cancer research.
The overall target for this year’s walk to raise funds for the Bloom Chair in Multiple Myeloma Research is $350,000. As of September 3rd, “The Multiple Myeloma: M-Moving Together Toward The Cure Team” has raised approximately 25% of the target.
I very much appreciate your support. Please click here to be redirected to my personal page and for more information on how to sponsor me.
Thank you and God Bless !