Things I like about Seattle: people riding the bus say, “Thank you,” to the driver when they exit. And, the driver always says, “You’re welcome.” Also, the sidewalk art enhances my wandering.

Science on the sidewalk
Science on the sidewalk

Research into multiple myeloma is among the most dynamic of all cancers. Why? Two major non-profit foundations exist to promote the latest therapies. One, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, (MMRF) concentrates on fundraising for research into MM. Furthermore, they demand accountability of those they support. This unique strategy raises the bar for performance. Therefore, therapeutic progress from academic research institutes moves more quickly into clinical settings.

The other organization, the International Myeloma Foundation, (IMF) also raises money for research. However, their efforts focus more on education for patients, caregivers, and medical communities. An informed patient population makes better healthcare decisions. According to the IMF, no one need feel alone regarding the threat of multiple myeloma. They stage seminars several times each year. In fact, Marilyn and I attended a two-day event here in Seattle way back in June. A comprehensive discussion of the latest therapies occurred. Medical experts from across the country spoke at length about what works for their patients. They shared results from the latest clinical trials. Additionally, we met many individuals who are survivors.

Eclectic sidewalk art and history, it's everywhere in Seattle
Eclectic sidewalk art and history, it's everywhere in Seattle

Initially, the seminar overwhelmed me with its choices. MM is a complex disease. Which therapy best improves the odds? Where, exactly, do I fit in among the many choices? Do you wait and see what happens? Do you fight it? If so, do you pursue conventional institutional medicine? Or, do you opt for another treatment? Individuals with cancer must answer these questions.

To do so, their personal investigations must thoroughly examine the evidence. Decisions belong to the patient, yet they must also seek support and trust from medical providers. Obviously, the chemo I received four weeks ago poisoned my body. The idea to treat the organism (me) with poison and try not to kill it in the process requires a leap of faith. The alternative, however, allows the disease to progress.

My risk factors remain favorable. The progression of any cancer is unpredictable. My symptoms are not yet life threatening. Bone involvement is low, my kidneys are strong, and my general good health allows for the most combative of treatments: a stem cell transplant. We are going forward with this treatment. It is not because we have no choice. It is because it appears to be the best informed choice.

Now I wait. Tuesday, I expect the SCCA to fix the date and allow me to return home for a brief period prior to treatment. That appeals to me very much. Currently, both my sons are in Hood River. I want to see them before my next leap of faith.

The incredible resources of the MMRF and IMF found their original motivation in the experience of two families forced to cope with the consequences of a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. These foundations took inspiration from the absence of knowledge available to patients and the belief that humanity can transcend any challenge through the application of its will. If these two families could help modify the status of a relatively rare disease from incurable to prospectively chronic within a generation, imagine the potential should mankind choose to promote scientific research with international investment strategies.

I am a hope junkie. I may benefit from those who believed they could make a difference. Cancer humbles families but it cannot deny them the dignity of hope. The IMF and MMRF prove that individual initiative and a passion for change can improve the world.

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