Letter: Early detection is key with multiple myeloma

To the editor:

At the 2017 Annual Bennington Town Meeting, as a patient, patient-advocate, and caregiver, I was privileged and honored to be the representative recipient of two Proclamations declaring March as Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month; one for the Town of Bennington, as declared by the Select Board, and the other for the State of Vermont, as declared by Governor Philip B. Scott. Both were facilitated by the honorable State Representative, Mary Morrissey.

Commonly referred to as a blood and bone cancer, multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow, and can occur at multiple sites in the body. Although it is relatively rare as a cancer, myeloma is the second-highest blood cancer, inflicting an ever-increasing number people, of both genders (over 20,000 each year), in an ever-widening age range. Despite some commonality, myeloma is an idiosyncratic disease or chronic illness, being unique to each inflicted patient, and requiring treatment specific to their case.

Even given the recent production of many novel chemotherapy drugs and advances in diagnosis and alternative therapeutic treatment, there are vast differences in the detection, diagnosis, rate of progression, type and delivery of appropriate treatment, individual patient responses to various drugs and techniques, duration of treatment effectiveness, and patient longevity. There is, as yet, no common cure for myeloma.

The Proclamations are designed to inform and empower citizens; to warn them to be alert to symptoms of extreme fatigue, anemia, and bone pain; to invite their action in promoting self-advocacy medically; and to expand early detection through at least annual physical check-ups and blood chemistry tests. Citizens are encouraged to volunteer and to provide fund-raising support that is entirely for the benefit of local patients, their families and caregivers.

I am writing this letter of appreciation, both as a grateful resident of the Bennington community and as the founder and facilitator of the Southern Vermont Multiple Myeloma Support Network. As a surviving myeloma patient, I am so fortunate to be living daily with good fortune and deep gratitude to those who have come before and the assistance given me to still be able to contribute to the purpose and mission of myeloma awareness, available resources, and opportunities.

I have benefited from the incredible expertise and caring efforts of so many dedicated, kind people and these supportive agencies: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center; Southwestern Vermont Medical Center; SVMC Healthcare Foundation; Cancer Center Community Crusaders, Center for Communication in Medicine, and International Myeloma Foundation. I have so many personal life-sustaining "medical families" throughout. Additionally, I have the love and support of family, dear friends, and members of the wonderful greater Bennington community.

I sincerely appreciate your support.

Remember, timely blood tests are the key to early detection of myeloma, less disease severity, better quality of life, and longevity.

— Jan Martin Bopp



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