Sisters Lead 7th Annual Sault Ste. Marie Multiple Myeloma March

Pamela and Judy

The 7th edition of the Sault Ste. Marie Multiple Myeloma March, Myeloma Canada’s signature fundraiser, will be held on Sunday, September 10 at the Roberta Bondar Park and Tent Pavilion. Myeloma survivor Pamela Orchard and her sister, Judy Mills, will lead the 5 km walk/run which raises funds and awareness about multiple myeloma, an incurable form of cancer affecting the plasma cells in the bone marrow.

When Pamela started developing back problems in 2011, it took three trips to the emergency room, visits with a physiotherapist and a chiropractor, and consultations with her family doctor before they discovered that the pain was not routine but was caused by multiple myeloma.

“By the time they figured out what was wrong, I couldn’t walk anymore. It was that bad,” Pamela recalls. Thanks to a stem cell transplantation five years ago, Pamela is walking again and hasn’t needed further treatment. “The earlier you catch it the less damage it is likely to do,” she adds. “That’s why raising awareness is so important, to help people be their own advocates and get diagnosed early.”

Pamela and her sister Judy decided to support Myeloma Canada’s initiatives by joining the Sault Ste. Marie Multiple Myeloma March in 2012. This year, they are organizing the March. Myeloma Canada is a non-profit charitable organization created by, and for people living with multiple myeloma. Since last year, Myeloma Canada has dedicated funds raised through its Multiple Myeloma March to the Myeloma Canada Research Network (MCRN)—a platform which brings together world-class myeloma researchers in 24 centres across nine provinces. The MCRN develops and supports Canadian-designed clinical trials nationwide, and collects data for its innovative national database.

Pamela Orchard with a volunteer at the Multiple Myeloma March

“The MCRN, which was born out of a patient organization, has become indispensable to conducting good quality research in Canada that is not primarily industry-driven,” says Dr. Donna Reece, Director of Program for Multiple Myeloma and Related Diseases, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. “Patients living with multiple myeloma usually eventually progress through the multiple standard therapies that are available, which is why offering accelerated access to innovative –and in some instances breakthrough–treatment options not currently reimbursed by any public health plan in Canada is so crucial.”

Every day, seven Canadians are diagnosed with multiple myeloma with an average diagnosis in the mid-sixties. “Despite a growing prevalence, myeloma remains relatively unknown,” says Aldo Del Col, Co-founder and Chairman, Myeloma Canada. “This is why there is an even greater need for early awareness programs to promote timely diagnosis.”

The Multiple Myeloma March will be held during the month of September in 17 communities across the country. By hosting the March, Pamela and Judy want to raise funds for research and help improve the chances of other patients. “I’ve got a lot of friends who have myeloma, and I want to do as much as possible for them. Not too many of them are as lucky as I am,” says Pamela.

Join Pamela and Judy at the 7th Annual Sault Ste. Marie Multiple Myeloma March on Sunday, September 10, at 10 a.m. at the Roberta Bondar Park and Tent Pavilion (65 Foster Dr.). Last year, the March raised $17,900. This year, organizers have set the fundraising goal at $20,000.