When Brian Panek collapsed at work in excruciating pain, he thought he was having a heart attack. For months, he had been experiencing pain and fatigue throughout his body, but this was a new level of agony. After being rushed to the hospital by ambulance and undergoing several tests, doctors informed Brian and his wife, Faith, that he hadn’t suffered a heart attack, but they had discovered a tumour on his spine. Three weeks and many more tests later, doctors were able to confirm Brian’s diagnosis: multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells. He was 57 years old.
“I had heard of myeloma in vague terms, not really knowing what it was, and Brian had never heard of it at all,” recalls Faith. “Initially, I was shocked and very emotional. Brian, on the other hand, wasn’t surprised at a cancer diagnosis, he finally felt like there was a confirmation of everything he had been going through.”
Shortly after Brian was diagnosed, the couple learned of the upcoming Multiple Myeloma March through a friend in their community. “I knew immediately that we needed to be a part of this event and help get the word out there that this cancer exists. I also felt that we needed to connect with others living with myeloma so that we didn’t feel so alone,” explains Faith.
Since then, the couple has felt compelled to help other patients by raising awareness about myeloma. Their resolve prompted them to participate in the 8th edition of the Sault Ste. Marie Multiple Myeloma March, being held on Sunday, September 9, at 10 A.M., at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion.
The Multiple Myeloma March increases awareness and raises funds for clinical research and supports advocacy for accelerated access to new therapies for Canadians living with myeloma. The five-kilometre walk/run has helped support Canadian clinical trial research that has the potential to be practice-changing and shape the Canadian treatment landscape. Over the last decade, the average life expectancy of a myeloma patient has doubled, with many now living 10 years or longer thanks to unprecedented advances in research and the development of new treatment options.
“The Multiple Myeloma March is critical for raising funds for clinical research that give myeloma patients access to new treatments that have been proven to make a difference in patient outcomes,” says Dr. Silvana Spadafora, Chief of Staff, Sault Area Hospital, and Medical Oncologist and Medical Director, Algoma District Cancer Program.
Faith hopes this year’s Multiple Myeloma March will contribute to further improving patient outcomes. “Since Brian’s diagnosis, two other family members have also been diagnosed with myeloma,” says Faith. “This is why we need to support initiatives like the Multiple Myeloma March so that the quality of life of members of the myeloma community can keep on improving.”
Sault Ste. Marie is one of 23 communities across the country that will be participating in the Multiple Myeloma March. The financial goal this year for Sault Ste. Marie is $18,000.
For more information about Myeloma Canada, visit, myeloma.ca