Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Millenium (makers of Velcade) class last night


Last night, I went to a "Learn About Myeloma" class at the City Center Marriott, which was hosted by Millenium, the makers of Velcade. Velcade is the drug that I get once a week intravenously through my port. Velcade is targeted chemo for myeloma cells, which is the future of cancer treatment. Not all cancers have targeted therapies. Velcade targets just myeloma cells, unlike many other chemo drugs, which destroys all cells (which is why you lose your hair). So we warriors typically tolerate Velcade better than a harsher drug.

At the class, there were probably 50 people attending, from what I could tell all were either patients or their caregivers. I sat at a table with two women from Kansas City who were there to give a portion of the presentation, and another woman who looked to be about 75 years old from Salt Lake City. Prior to the class, we chatted. The two women were awesome. The older woman was a myeloma survivor coming up on six years. She has only achieved remission for a few months but, thanks to Velcade, is doing quite well. They are managing her disease. She lost her husband to cancer and was feeling healthy and well when they discovered abnormalities in routine blood work. Getting her cancer diagnosis was a shock. She was quite scared, angry and devastated, as was her entire family. Hearing the words "you have cancer" is always a life changing experience. The other woman discovered she had myeloma when she got a physical prior to going on a mission for the Mormon church. I always love hearing from other warriors. I have yet to meet a single cancer survivor who isn't amazing. Cancer changes you for the better, though it's a difficult experience.

The keynote speaker was a myeloma expert from City of Hope in Los Angeles. She talked about the drug Velcade and also future therapies in the pipeline for approval. There were also some promising clinical trials, though I'm not eligible to participate in any of them because I'm in remission, though I have at least eight more months of maintenance therapy, which this week is kicking my ass with fatigue.

After the class, the woman from Salt Lake City sitting next to me asked me many questions about my doctors and team of nurses at Huntsman. She needs to find a new oncologist. She probably also needs to start chemo. She was in tears as she said, "I said I would never do chemo. I am so afraid."

"I wouldn't wish chemo on anyone, trust me," I told her. "That said, I hate to say it but it's not that bad."

We talked some more and she couldn't thank me enough. Sometimes I feel like God puts us in other people's paths for a reason. I think I was needed at last night's meeting-- far more for the women I sat next to than for anything I learned last night.

Afterwards, I talked to Millenium employees who hosted the event and offered to give presentations at other seminars. They seemed interested and took my contact info. We also talked about the www.myelomacrowd.org website that I helped Jenny launch.

I hate cancer. I hate myeloma. But I love the people I have met along the way. I mean, I absolutely love them.