When Denise Vidot discovered her father was diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the blood caused by cells in the bone marrow, she decided to raise money for the disease and educate the community by sponsoring a walk around Lake Osceola.
“When I started asking people if they knew about myeloma no one did,” said Vidot, president of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority. “So I felt a walk would be the best way to spread awareness.”
Vidot hosted a walk for myeloma last year which brought in about 50 participants. This year, Vidot had 100 people who pre-registered alone and she hopes that the event will raise $10,000 for myeloma research.
According to The National Cancer Institute, there are over 13,500 new cases of myeloma in the U.S. every year and the disease affects twice as many African-Americans as Caucasians.
“A walk for myeloma is very important for the African community since [the disease] affects us at such a higher rate,” said Patrick St. Arromand, a senior and a member of Brothers Overcoming Negativity and Destruction.
Though most of the Myeloma Walk participants were UM students, others came from the Greater Miami area and other parts of Florida.
“My dad passed away from myeloma so when my wife heard about the walk she thought it would be a good idea to be involved,” Jim Pande, a walk participant, said. Pande drove down from Jupiter, Fla. with his children, wife, cousin and mother.
Pande’s father was diagnosed with myeloma after a blood test showed he was anemic with high protein levels. He then underwent chemotherapy treatment, stem cell treatment and a bone marrow transplant for which he had to travel to Arkansas. He lost about 6 inches in height and died four months after diagnosis.
“Since myeloma is incurable, you’re basically on treatment for the rest of your life,” Vicki Anderson-Ferraro, a myeloma patient and support group leader, said.
The Pande family learned about the walk through the Myeloma Minute Newsletter, and hopes to spread awareness of the disease since few people know about myeloma.
“When we first heard he was diagnosed with myeloma we thought, what is that?” Maudie Pande, Jim Pande’s mother, said. “We thought maybe it was melanoma.”
After being diagnosed with myeloma, many patients join support groups and attend seminars to learn more about the disease. The International Myeloma Foundation provides patients, families and friends with information about treatment, support and notification of myeloma-related events.
“The IMF has been a tremendous support,” Marti Snyder, a myeloma support group member, said. Snyder found out about the walk at UM through the IMF.
At the start of the walk, each participant received a balloon to symbolize hope for a cure or the memory of a loved one who has passed away from myeloma. At the end of the walk, each participant let their balloon go, symbolizing the raising of awareness and spirits at the same time.
Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org