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Meet Hal Anderson, MMRF 2024 Walk/Run: Detroit Spirit of Hope Honoree

Hal Anderson considers his life to consist of two phases, which he labels BC and AD. BC is before cancer, and AD is after diagnosis.

Before cancer, Hal had served 31 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Captain. He was a career nuclear submarine officer who commanded the USS SHARK. During his career in submarines, his approach to problem solving was to gather the facts, research possible options, seek the best available advice, decide the best course of action, and carry out the plan.

When he was diagnosed with Stage 3a multiple myeloma in 1998 after suffering multiple compression fractures of his lower spine, Hal took the same approach to solving this new problem. Options for treatment were limited in 1998. Being in his mid 50s, the standard of care consisted of a three-drug combination of chemotherapy followed by an autologous stem cell transplant. After eight cycles of VAD and the transplant, Hal enjoyed about two years of remission. When he relapsed in 2001, there were still no new approved options for treatment, but thalidomide, only approved for treating leprosy at the time, was showing benefit for some patients. So, Hal used thalidomide, off label, for a few years until Revlimid became available.

The two years after his transplant, 1999–2001, was the only time frame in which Hal was in remission after his diagnosis in 1998. Otherwise, he has been treated with various combinations of drugs that have been able to keep the myeloma under control.

When the MMRF started doing 5Ks in 2001, Hal and his mentor signed up for the Chicago event. They didn’t know anything about fundraising that first year, but every year since then, Hal has made an effort to help raise money for research into better treatments and a cure for myeloma. To celebrate 10 years of survivorship in 2008, Hal set his goal at $10,000 and raised it by $1,000 each subsequent year until it reached $20,000, which has been his goal every year since then.

Hal’s advice for surviving myeloma for 26 years is the approach outlined above:

  1. Educate yourself about the disease and available treatments.
  2. Find a mentor. The best place to do that is by being an active member of a myeloma support group.
  3. Consult with a myeloma expert to help you decide the best treatment for you.
  4. If the plan works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, repeat step 3.

Hal is benefiting from his early years of fundraising by using drugs that are products of the research he helped fund 20 years ago. He encourages you to follow his example.

The MMRF is delighted to recognize Hal Anderson as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2024 MMRF Team for Cures: Detroit 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.