Marching to combat multiple myeloma

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Residents of Airdrie will once again march around East Lake to raise funds and awareness for multiple myeloma Sept. 9 during the third annual Greg Roberts Memorial Myeloma Walk/Run, a Multiple Myeloma March.

“I think it’s important that Canadians learn about multiple myeloma and are aware that it is a disease out there, and what Myeloma Canada is doing to advance research and to have better treatment for patients that are diagnosed,” said Pamela Roberts, who is organizing Airdrie’s fundraiser for the third year.

The annual Multiple Myeloma March is an annual fundraiser organized by Myeloma Canada, which aims to raise awareness about the disease and funds for research. According to a press release from Myeloma Canada, Airdrie is one of 23 communities across Canada that will participate in 2018’s march. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the event, with a national fundraising goal of $550,000. Organizers hope to raise at least $40,000 in Airdrie.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells found in the bone marrow. According to Myeloma Canada, eight Canadians are diagnosed with the disease every day – with the average age of diagnosis in the mid-sixties – but the disease remains relatively obscure. The cause of myeloma remains unknown.

Roberts has a personal connection to the cause – Airdrie’s walk/run is named after her brother Greg, who passed away from multiple myeloma in 2014. Roberts said she’s also lost an aunt and uncle to the disease. She admitted her personal experience with myeloma can make it difficult to organize the event, year after year.

“It reminds me of the losses, but I think that’s what makes it so important,” she said. “When something like that changes your life, you try to do something to make a difference. That’s what I’m trying to do, is help support Myeloma Canada and make a difference for future patients.”

Among the participants in this year’s march is Rob Toth. Toth was diagnosed with myeloma June 1, 2017, at the age of 45, after experiencing crippling pain during a golf game. Following a series of medical tests, doctors determined his kidneys were failing due to multiple myeloma.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” he said. “Everybody’s heard of leukemia, lymphoma and that type of thing. Myeloma is a blood cancer as well, and relatively unknown.”

Toth was placed on dialysis and has since undergone chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant. His health has stabilized – he is now off dialysis and on maintenance therapy, and he said his doctors have told him he’s in a good partial remission.

“Ten years prior to my diagnosis, I would have been on a deathbed,” Toth said. “I would have [had]maybe four of five months, because of my kidney failure and different things that I experienced, but because of work and advocacy and different things that have occurred, my future is much brighter.”

Toth’s experience with myeloma has also compelled him to do his part for others fighting the disease.

“The reason I’m doing it is to continue to advocate, to continue to give Canadians everything they can as far as treatment’s concerned, and, secondly, to raise awareness so people know about the disease and the great work that’s happened in the last ten years, and then, ultimately, to drive for a cure,” Toth said.

Both Roberts and Toth said Airdrionians have embraced the march. Toth pointed out Airdrie’s event is the only one in Alberta, and Roberts said she’s been surprised by the sheer number of participants that have taken part in the past.

“I love having it in Airdrie,” Roberts said. “We moved it there from Calgary because that was the last place my brother had lived, was in Airdrie. The support there, from the community, is just tremendous.”

This year’s Greg Roberts Memorial Myeloma Walk/Run will take place Sept. 9, starting at 9 a.m. at the East Lake Regional Park. Anyone interested in participating can register online at myelomacanada.ca

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