Every day, 11 Canadians are diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer
(Cornwall, Ontario) September 1, 2022 – In 2018, Mary Brink was given a life-changing diagnosis. After a hike in the mountains while visiting her son in British Columbia, Mary, a mother of seven, started to suffer severe neck and back pain. The pain was so severe that Mary eventually went to a nearby hospital emergency room where she was given morphine to ease the pain for her flight home. By the time she returned to Cornwall a few days later, the pain was unbearable. Little did Mary know, but she was soon to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a little known and incurable blood cancer. Mary was 61 years old.
Once back at home, Mary continued to feel worse. Not only was she in excruciating pain, but Mary lost her appetite, was constantly exhausted, and couldn’t even go about her daily routine. After a few weeks, Mary visited her family physician who did a series of tests and quickly referred her to a blood specialist. The specialist ordered a bone marrow biopsy that confirmed her shocking myeloma diagnosis. She also learned that the pain in her neck and back were due to three broken vertebrae caused by the myeloma.
“Four years ago, my family and I had never heard of myeloma and had no idea what it was. Worse still, we didn’t know what my future held, if I’d still be around to read stories to my grandchildren and have memories with them,” recalls Mary who has 22 grandchildren with whom she is very close.
Mary and her family are not alone. While myeloma is the second most common form of blood cancer, few people have ever heard of it. The reality is that the number of Canadians living with myeloma is on the rise, increasing the urgent need for greater investment in and access to life-saving treatments and care.
Mary’s journey has not been easy, although you will not hear her complain about it. She has had difficulties finding a treatment plan effective in slowing down the progression of her disease without leaving her with crippling side effects.
“My balance isn’t great. My legs just don’t feel right because of side effects from one of the medications I take. I tire easily, feel shaky sometimes, and I have slight vertigo,” says Mary. “I like to joke that John, my husband of 44 years, is better support than using a walker! He’s my greatest encourager in so many ways,” Mary adds.
After exploring different treatment options, Mary’s healthcare team has finally found a more suitable drug combination, but it too, is not without its set of complications. Unfortunately, one of the medications Mary is taking resulted in her having to undergo cataract surgery this year. While Mary is not in remission, she is grateful that her condition is stable.
“It wasn’t too long ago that if you had myeloma, you were given three to five years to live,” says Mary. “It’s encouraging to know that we are living longer and better lives thanks to advances in research.”
Eager to help those living with myeloma, Mary spearheaded a local support group this spring with Linda VanderSchaaf, who is also living with the disease. This year, Mary has decided to launch the first-ever Cornwall Multiple Myeloma March.
Myeloma Canada’s Multiple Myeloma March is a vital nation-wide event that raises money and awareness for the disease, while bringing local communities closer together in support of one another. Without the funds raised at each of these essential Marches, important investments in myeloma research and drug access would be compromised.
“I want people in the area to be aware of this serious condition,” says Mary. “I also want others who have myeloma to know that they aren’t alone, that there is support, and that there is hope. I believe that we can find the purpose in our pain, if we have an open mind and the right attitude,” says Mary.
It’s for these reasons that Mary and her family team, ‘Team Brink’, will be lacing-up for the inaugural, 5 km Cornwall Multiple Myeloma March on September 17, 2022, at 11 a.m., at the Band Shell in Lamoureux Park. Mary and her family hope to raise $3,000. She welcomes and would appreciate others to join them on her walk.
Every year, we’re getting closer to finding a cure,” says Martine Elias, Executive Director of Myeloma Canada. “That’s why the funds raised at the Cornwall March are so critical. They’ll help to keep myeloma research moving forward and to improve the lives of Canadians impacted by this devastating disease.”
About the Multiple Myeloma March
The Cornwall Multiple Myeloma March is one of 34+ communities across the country participating in Myeloma Canada’s nation-wide event. For Canadians not located near a physical March or who wish to participate on their own, there is also a virtual March option. The Cornwall Multiple Myeloma March has set its financial goal at $8,000. Nationally, Myeloma Canada’s March aims to raise $750,000. For more information, visit myelomamarch.ca.
Multiple myeloma, also known as myeloma, is the second most common form of blood cancer. Myeloma affects a type of immune cell called the plasma cell, found in the bone marrow. Every day, 11 Canadians are diagnosed, yet in spite of its growing prevalence, the disease remains relatively unknown. While there is currently no cure, people with myeloma are living longer and better lives, thanks to recent breakthroughs in treatment. To find a cure, more funding and research are required.
About Myeloma Canada
Myeloma Canada is the only national charitable organization created by, and for, Canadians impacted by multiple myeloma. The organization is driven to improve the lives of those affected by myeloma by empowering the community through awareness, education, and advocacy programs, and supporting research to find a cure. Since its founding in 2005, Myeloma Canada has been making myeloma matter.
To learn more, or to donate, please visit www.myeloma.ca.