July 12th, 2024

Flag-raising draws attention to multiple myeloma

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 14, 2023.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Members from Lethbridge's local myeloma support group gathered Monday at city hall to raise the Myeloma Canada flag in support of Myeloma Awareness Month.

When it comes to our health it is important to stay vigilant and aware of risks that can crop up as we get older.

In an effort to create awareness, members from a local myeloma support group raised the Myeloma Canada flag at City Hall for March Myeloma Awareness Month on Monday.

Group leader Brian Treadwell notes the importance of events like these about spreading awareness and the importance of staying up to date on health issues.

Every day, 11 Canadians are diagnosed with multiple myeloma and that number is rising.

“We want to build awareness by getting people to know the signs and not just saying ‘Oh, it’s just a simple pain, it’ll go away.’ Ask your physician. I know a lot of people don’t have a family physician, but the thing is, if you get a chance, ask to be referred. Get that pain, or feeling of weakness checked out, because you never know,” said Treadwell.

“Often it takes more than three visits to get a diagnosis, and if you get a longer period of time with a late diagnosis, the less chance you have of having a better quality of life.”

Multiple Myeloma is a cancer in the plasma cells. Abnormal plasma cells, myeloma cells, interfere with the production of normal blood cells in the bone marrow and overproduce inactive clones of abnormal antibodies that can negatively affect different parts of the body, such as the bones and kidneys. The causes are still unknown with no cure.

Treadwell received his diagnosis on April 27, 2021, after suffering from fatigue and anemia.

“I was lucky my physician (was quick) to the fact that it could be a blood cancer. He sent me to a hematologist who had me go for tests,” said Treadwell. “My life has changed so much; I am not able to exist as well as I used to.”

The disease varies from person-to-person with the common signs of myeloma such as bone pain, anemia, and recurring infections, absent in other patients.

It can take up to three visits with a physician to bring about an initial diagnosis before treatment can be started. Due to these factors, it is stressed to stay aware of myeloma, with those in their mid-60s more commonly diagnosed.

“I’ve had a good outcome, I’ve had it for over 10 years since I was diagnosed. It wasn’t too many years ago that when anyone was diagnosed it was a death sentence. They would usually live about three to five years,” said Tom Wosley, a member of the Myeloma Support Group.

“Thankfully, there is more awareness. Doctors are more aware of the symptoms and can make referrals to specialists earlier.”

By raising the flag on myeloma awareness, the group hopes to connect with more people needing support, while also educating others on the importance of staying attentive on their health. “The results have been that, they haven’t found a cure, but they have given us much better quality of life. We are not tied to having injections and infusion at the hospital very often anymore. We just take regular pills and we feel pretty good,” said Wosley.

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