Annie Blaser of North Liberty was attending the University of Iowa in 2012 when she learned some devastating news from home. Her mother, Mary, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
“That diagnosis rocked my world, to say the least,” Blaser said. “I had never heard of multiple myeloma before and was extremely scared and confused.”
Multiple myeloma, a life-threatening blood cancer of the plasma cells, is the second leading blood cancer in the world.
Blaser’s mother received a stem cell transplant — a common treatment for multiple myeloma — and is in remission today.
Her mother’s diagnosis got Blaser involved in the Eastern Iowa Miles for Myeloma Run/Walk fundraiser held in Iowa City in the past, but when the fundraiser created in 2012 had to take a year off in 2017 due to lack of leadership, Blaser stepped up and agreed to be the committee chair for the event and bring it back in honor of her mother.
“Raising funds for multiple myeloma research is something that I am passionate about and want to give my time to because I believe the MMRF’s developments have played a large role in keeping my mom healthy and here with us.” Blaser said. “Multiple myeloma was once looked at with a grim outlook, but now more than ever some say it can be looked at as a chronic illness if detected early enough. Those of us at the walk may not be able to come up with treatments, or a cure, but we can provide the MMRF with the funds they need to accomplish those things,” she added, noting that all moneys raised through this event go directly to the MMRF.
The sixth annual Eastern Iowa Miles for Myeloma Run/Walk fundraiser to benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) will take place at 10 a.m. this Sunday at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, in Iowa City. The event starts with activities — music, face painting, kids’ activities, an appearance by Herky, and snacks — and a silent auction, followed by the walk starting at 11 a.m. The event will be held near Shelter 1, a change in previous years due to all the recent rain. Participants in this all-ages event are invited to walk, run, bike, hike or dance their way around the scenic lake — rain or shine.
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Eastern Iowa Miles for Myeloma seeks to raise awareness, propel science, and give support to those affected by this disease. The first ever Eastern Iowa Miles for Myeloma took place in 2012, and was created by a local Iowa City couple, Dan and Laurie Cummins. The Cummins wished to remember Dan’s brother, Doug, who died at age 50 from multiple myeloma, as well as a friend, Dan Dwyer, who died the following year at age 51.
Blaser said she enjoys seeing the variety of participants who come out for the event.
“Not only do myeloma patients come out to support one another, but this event is also for families, friends, caregivers, and health care providers to support each other and share their experiences,” she said. “It is a day where everyone who has been touched one way or another by this disease can rally together and inspire one another to keep going.”
Laurel Hibbard of North Liberty has participated in the walk since 2014 and got involved on the planning committee this year as well, after he dad was diagnosed in 2014. After battling the disease and going into remission, Hibbard’s father died this past February from complications of influenza.
“Although his myeloma was not his cause of death, I know it had an impact on his ability to fight the illness,” Hibbard said. “It is important to me to keep walking in his honor and to raise awareness and funds for other patients and families.”
“Multiple myeloma isn’t the most common cancer so I believe awareness is very important,” she added. “Many times it is not diagnosed or not identified early and I feel it is important for people to know the symptoms.”
Hibbard and other participants believe in the importance of funding research through the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
“Walks like this make you realize that you’re not the only one experiencing this kind of cancer and that, together, people really can make a difference in each other’s lives and in the course of medical treatments,” Hibbard said.
Hibbard said participating in the walk helps connect you with a supportive community.
“We learned about the event the year my dad was diagnosed and it meant so much to meet others near home whose family and friends were going through similar situations,” she said. “He was recovering from a stem cell transplant and couldn’t walk but he felt so much support knowing our team was there for him.”
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The Eastern Iowa Miles for Myeloma event has grown over the years with more than 600 walkers/runners participating in 2016, according to Blaser.
“To date, the race has raised more than $100,000 to benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation that continues to pioneer treatments for blood cancer,” Blaser said. “It’s really a family fun day dedicated to celebrating survivors who are living proof of the progress that’s being made in the multiple myeloma world, as well as honoring those who we have lost to the fight.”
If you go
l What: Eastern Iowa Miles for Myeloma
l When: 10 a.m. Sunday
l Where: Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, Shelter 1, Iowa City
l More information and registration: https://independent.themmrf.org/EIMM/