Over the past decade, many new and effective treatment options for multiple myeloma have been introduced, allowing more patients today to effectively manage their disease and get back to living life on their own terms. Many are doing things that challenge conventional perceptions of what myeloma patients can do. These myeloma patients are making history and overcoming their disease to achieve major goals in their lives. We wanted to highlight some of the inspirational stories that we’ve recently heard.
Four years after being diagnosed with myeloma and three years after going into remission, Stan Wagner continues to go for monthly blood tests but, for the most part, doesn’t think about his myeloma much. He’s focused on giving back instead.
When he learned that a friend wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for a larger purpose besides herself, Wagner brought the idea to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and helped develop the Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma fundraising event. Wagner decided to participate himself and trained by going on day hikes in upstate New York. In January 2016, Wagner made the 8-day hike through high elevations and low temperatures to the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
“Being a myeloma patient doing things like this shows that myeloma is not the end of the world,” Wagner said. “Hopefully, I can inspire other myeloma patients to get out of their shells and to keep doing what they want to.”
Although Mark Herkert has never been in remission since being diagnosed with myeloma five years ago, his treatment has allowed him to become healthy enough to complete a 5K run to support the Multiple Myeloma Opportunities for Research & Education organization, becoming a top fundraiser for the event.
Since that first race, Herkert has gone on to run the Lavaman Waikoloa Triathlon and the 2015 New York City Marathon, raising more than $70,000 for myeloma research through all his efforts to date. Next year, he plans to follow the footsteps of myeloma patients like Wagner by participating in the MMRF Mt. Kilimanjaro Trek.
“I felt like maybe this is what I was meant to do,” Herkert said. “I am contributing and getting in great shape at the same time. My goal is to encourage others to be part of the solution and to show others with myeloma that the sky can truly be the limit.”
Being in and out remissions several times since being diagnosed with myeloma in 2011 hasn’t stopped Alex Clark from spending time outdoors, including camping and mountain climbing. When his disease went into remission for the first time, he took a road trip to Oregon, spending six weeks hiking, backpacking and mountain climbing in the wilderness. During that first trip, he logged over 300 miles and scaled five big summits.
More recently, Clark spent a rainy February weekend camping in Wisconsin’s Northwoods on the edge of Lake Superior. Clark said that he finds peace being in nature and has come to recognize that he is strong enough to overcome whatever happens next in his journey.
“I have a tattoo on my arm that says ‘don’t panic,” Clark said. “I try to think about that phrase a lot. Things are never as bad as they seem, as long as you don’t panic and keep doing the things that you enjoy.”