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Meet Adam Ralston, MMRF 2024 Walk/Run: Boston Spirit of Hope Honoree

How did you get involved with the MMRF?

My big moment with the MMRF came on February 20, 2018, about a year after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I had gone through ~12 months of testing, treatments, and a successful stem cell transplant, and as most myeloma patients will tell you, that first year was very structured. The path to remission seemed very well known, and there were expert oncologists and nurses there to help define a daily routine for me, which gave me great comfort.

But then came 2018, when it was time to transition to maintenance therapies and settle into a less-structured “normal life” living with cancer. There was just one problem: living with cancer wasn’t normal for me! I remember feeling very intimidated about taking that step. What if I don’t know how to live with cancer? What if I do it wrong? What if I make a mistake!? What if it all comes crashing down?!?!

My wife Katie, being the emotionally intelligent one, recognized that really, I just needed to talk to someone about my feelings, and she guided me to the MMRF. I agreed to reach out because deep down I just wanted to find someone else like me—someone who had dealt with these feelings before—someone who was out there living a normal life with cancer. That’s when I got my first email from the MMRF.

Caroline Webel from the MMRF in Norwalk, CT, understood what I was feeling, and she introduced me to a gentleman named David Schor. Dave was a myeloma survivor from New Jersey who (for some odd reason) liked the Denver Broncos. He was living proof that you could be a cancer patient and a dedicated sports fan and a Dad and a husband and a regular dude all at the same time. He loved his wife and his son and his beagle and especially Boston accents. He enjoyed his job and fitness and taking risks and watching funny movies and all the same things that I wanted to have in my “normal” life with cancer. And he did it all with such a carefree attitude too. I will never forget the first email I got from Dave. He didn’t call our disease by its real name, he simply referred to it as “Loma”. Ha ha, he had a nickname for it! It was clear that he had accepted cancer, like it was just another part of him, like anything else would be. Cancer did not define him, and that gave me hope.

Now many years later, Dave and I are still close friends, each living our best cancer lives thanks to the MMRF. Our friendship is largely a remote and virtual one—held firmly together by sending text messages and Christmas cards, comparing test results, and sharing medical data and links to emerging myeloma treatments. Most importantly though, we share the laughter of a 100 million inside jokes that have come to life since the day Caroline Webel introduced me to my “Chemosabe”:

Why did you choose to participate in the MMRF Walk/Run?

The credit for discovering the MMRF Walk/Run and choosing to participate belongs entirely to my lovely wife Katie. Since forming our first MMRF team in 2018, she has accumulated over $75,000 in donations for the Boston event and inspired hundreds of generous runner-walker-donors to get involved and join us along the way.

Included on the annual team are our two young children, Cali and Tyler, who have also been active fundraisers and participants since our first MMRF Walk/Run. Incidentally, that brings up another brave decision that I credit to Katie: the choice to inform and educate our kids about what it means for Dad to have cancer. The truth hurts sometimes, but we never hid it from them. Katie helped me be up front and honest about my diagnosis with Cali and Tyler, which brought understanding for them and eventually healing for us all. Now they share in the excitement of preparing and participating in the MMRF Walk/Run every year.

Through the MMRF Walk/Run, Katie has created a tremendous amount of momentum with many other “True Believers” out there who will not back down and insist on winning the fight against myeloma. Here are just a few photos of the team.

“True Believers” at their first MMRF Walk/Run in 2018 (top left), with their Bouncing Souls inspired logo (top right),
at the M-Street field in South Boston (bottom left), and at another recent MMRF Walk/Run event (bottom right).

 

How have you found perseverance in light of obstacles? Please share any stories that have given you strength.

In my personal battle with myeloma, I have always been able to draw strength from music. Very specifically, I am motivated by punk rock bands from the 1980s and 1990s who, after grueling 30-year and sometimes 40-year music careers, still manage to get up and go out and sing their punk rock anthems year after year. I admire these groups for standing up for what they believe in for so long. I also imagine it takes great physical strength to endure decades of songwriting, record making, and concert touring to promote their musical message.

It gives me hope to know that these musicians are able to persevere, even as their bodies age. Their songs have survived for all these years, and knowing that helps me overcome obstacles on my own long-term journey with myeloma.

Do you have a favorite mantra, quote, lyric that gives you strength?

As a matter of fact, I have many! Here are a few recent photos of the durable musicians discussed above and an example of a song lyric from each. These lyrics give me hope and strength every day. (Note, these are all personal photos I took in the last year, proof that the music and this patient are both still strong today!)

“All the bands we loved the most, all the songs that give us hope. Reasons we’re still
here today, people change but songs remain!” -‘Songs Remain’ by h20

 

“You can fight or you can run, hide under a rock ’til the war is won, play it safe and don’t
make a sound. But not us, we won’t back down!” -‘True Believers’ by the Bouncing Souls
“Through music, we can live forever.” -‘Indestructible’ by Rancid

 

The Spirit of Hope is given to “individuals/groups who inspire hope and show extraordinary commitment to the MMRF.” What does being given the award mean to you?

It means that it’s working—the medicine, the fundraising, the research, those ugly days and hospital nights and long drives and hot/cold/rainy/windy laps at the MMRF Walk/Run. It means it’s all working. As cancer patients, we all need that validation every once in a while: a reminder that not only is there a light at the end of the tunnel, but’s it’s getting brighter and brighter all the time.

I am thrilled to share this Spirit of Hope recognition with all the friends, family, patients, MMRF reps, walk/run volunteers, punk rock bands, Chemosabes, and True Believers out there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the hope and validation you provide us every single day!

The MMRF is delighted to recognize Adam Ralston as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2024 MMRF Team for Cures: Boston Walk/Run.

This award is presented at every Walk/Run to a patient, caregiver, or family who inspires hope through their resilience, perseverance, and dedication to the MMRF and its mission.