My multiple myeloma journey started in September 2010 at 48 years old with lower back pain and the feeling that I had somehow gotten shorter – or my pants longer. After meeting with Dr. Lendvai at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and learning that my myeloma genetics placed me in a potentially “higher risk” category, I underwent induction therapy with RVD, followed by an autologous stem cell transplant in December 2010, followed by RVD consolidation with maintenance Revlimid since. This September will be my 12th anniversary with remission continuing to hold strong. Two side notes regarding my stay on the 8th floor of MSKCC – the place where stem cell transplants take place – or at least took place.
The first – it was our 25th wedding anniversary and Tina wanted me to hold off a bit and have the stem cell transplant after our anniversary and I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible – so I pointed out that I had promised her that we would one day spend our anniversary in a truly exclusive and world class get away with a water view. Well, we had a view of the East River, and you really cannot get more exclusive or world class than MSKCC.
The second was a few days into my stay, I received a job offer as general counsel of a company – this was a job I really, really, really wanted. So, it was a bit unusual when I literally asked the medical team to leave my room and come back later while I negotiated my employment agreement.
Now, to the MMRF. As of today, multiple myeloma remains an incurable – but treatable – blood cancer. So, the strategy is to hope there are new treatment options available when the ones you are on stop working and disease progression takes place. The MMRF literally changed the way that cancer drug and treatment research and development take place – taking the system from a proprietary one where each institution does its own thing to one where information is openly shared among a large consortium of institutions, drug companies and medical experts. This model has led to an explosion in new drugs and treatments for multiple myeloma – an amazing thing for a relatively rare blood cancer. So, driven by the MMRF, we have a lot of “arrows in the quiver” – and until there is some definitive cure – this is the next best thing – providing a path for longevity and hope with myeloma now becoming a chronic illness.
After my diagnosis in 2010, we decided that knowledge is essentially power – or at least it makes you feel that way. The educational resources provided by the MMRF are truly unmatched. So, in view of these things, we decided to support MMRF to the best of our ability. Tina has co-chaired the Laugh for Life event in NYC; Tina and our daughter, Mara, also climbed Machu Picchu as part of Moving Mountains for Myeloma; we have done various 5Ks as part of the MMRF in Philadelphia; and my brother, Charles, has raced in the NYC triathlon and multiple other endurance events supporting the MMRF. In each of these events, we have all done our best to fundraise. And, of course, Tina and I make an annual gift. Financial support is crucial so the MMRF can continue its mission.
We have tried very, very hard to never let myeloma get in my way – either personally or professionally – or to let myeloma somehow control our lives. I work very hard; we travel a fair amount; and we truly try to enjoy life. A very important “insurance policy” that allows us to do this is the MMRF because while we are doing our stuff, the MMRF continues to innovate and drive the development of new treatment options – ensuring that if and when disease progression occurs, there will be many options – and continued hope. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others have said “keep moving forward” – and that is exactly what Tina and I have tried to do. Knowing that the MMRF has our backs makes the journey forward much, much easier! Tina I are very touched that the MMRF has selected me to receive this year’s Spirit of Hope award, and we hope that our story helps those who are newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma to keep moving forward, confident that with the support of the MMRF, we will find a cure – but until then we will continue to have more and more treatment options.
Donate to Michael’s MMRF 5K Walk/Run team now – click here!
This award is presented at every 5K Walk/Run to a patient, caregiver, or family who inspires hope through their resilience, perseverance, and dedication to the MMRF and its mission.