A plea to make March Multiple Myeloma Month

Dear editor,

I have cancer. My cancer is called multiple myeloma (also known as myeloma) and it is the second most common form of blood cancer. Have you ever heard of it?

Every day, an average of 10 Canadians are diagnosed with myeloma, a number which has been steadily increasing since the early 90’s. Despite its growing prevalence, myeloma remains relatively unknown; most people living with the disease heard the words ‘multiple myeloma’ uttered for the very first time when they received their diagnosis.

I am writing to ask for your help in bringing public awareness to myeloma, a fatal disease that profoundly impacts the lives of so many in Canada. We are calling on all levels of government across our vast country to officially proclaim March 2022 as “Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month”. Many jurisdictions in Canada, the United States and around the world have already recognized the month of March as “Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month” and have designated a specific day in March as “Multiple Myeloma Awareness Day.” Help us increase awareness of this incurable cancer to the Canadian population.

Myeloma manifests itself and develops differently in each patient which means that patients’ responses to the same therapies differ greatly. This makes myeloma a difficult disease to both diagnose and treat.
Symptoms of myeloma are often vague, like fatigue, anemia, bone pain (resulting from bone fractures), and kidney problems. As such, there are many ways avenues that can lead to a diagnosis. It is therefore crucial that patients and primary care physicians recognize early signs and symptoms of the disease. A delayed diagnosis is almost always associated with serious complications that impact the quality and length of life of patients with this cancer.

People like me who have myeloma generally have a severely weakened immune system making us more susceptible to frequent, reoccurring – and potentially dangerous – infections, like COVID-19. Access to adequate healthcare and services is essential to protect patients. Inequity in the services and healthcare received is unfortunately a reality that affects many Canadians because of where they live, their income, or their ethnic origins.

In recent years, considerable progress has been made in expanding the range of available treatments and improving the prognosis for those affected. However, not all Canadians have access to the same treatments. The daily reality of living with myeloma is frightening because it is never a question of whether we will relapse and if we will need a new treatment, but rather when we relapse, will there be new treatments available, and if so, will they be accessible in our province or territory?

This must change — more Canadians need to be made aware of the effects of this devastating disease so that those who have it are diagnosed earlier and have the chance for a better outcome.
Through raising Canadians’ awareness for multiple myeloma, we can educate them on the early warning signs of the disease, and open the door to dialogue with the medical community and government authorities for equitable access to healthcare services, innovative therapies, and clinical research.

By participating in our advocacy campaign and helping us make March “Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month”, you will help improve the quality and length of life for people living with this incurable cancer.

Help us make March 2022 “Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month” in every province and territory. Together, we can get one step closer to a cure and raise awareness for this disease that has taken the lives of far too many Canadians.

Thank you for giving the 3,800 newly diagnosed Canadians this year, and all of us affected by myeloma, the strength, courage, and hope for a better future.

Visit myeloma.ca to learn more.

Wendell Stevens