My mother, died of complications from treatment of Multiple Myeloma, in 1994, almost 20 years ago. Today research, treatments and care for patients with Myeloma has changed and improved beyond what was available when she was diagnosed. This week, my birthday week, is Myeloma Awareness week. As you can imagine, I feel very passionately about supporting a charity, that is helping those diagnosed, and supporting families.
What is Myeloma?
Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a cancer arising from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell which is made in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the ‘spongy’ material found in the centre of the larger bones in the body. The bone marrow is where all blood cells are made.
Plasma cells form part of your immune system. Normal plasma cells produce antibodies, also called immunoglobulins, to help fight infection.
In myeloma, these plasma cells become abnormal, multiply uncontrollably and release only one type of antibody – known as paraprotein – which has no useful function. It is often through the measurement of this paraprotein that myeloma is diagnosed and monitored.
Unlike many cancers, myeloma does not exist as a lump or tumour. Most of the medical problems related to myeloma are caused by the build-up of the abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow and the presence of the paraprotein in the blood or in the urine.
Myeloma affects multiple places in the body (hence ‘multiple’ myeloma) where bone marrow is normally active in an adult i.e. within the bones of the spine, skull, pelvis, the rib cage, long bones of the arms and legs and the areas around the shoulders and hips.
Myeloma is a relapsing-remitting cancer. This means there are periods when the myeloma is causing symptoms and/or complications and needs to be treated, followed by periods of remission or plateau where the myeloma does not cause symptoms and does not require treatment.
This week, is Myeloma Awareness week. I am asking all my friends and family, instead of spending money on cards and gifts, to donate to Myeloma UK. It would mean a lot to me, and will help those in treatment, or newly diagnosed, and the families of those, caring for someone with Myeloma. My Mum, if she had been alive now, would have been able to take advantage of the research, and better treatments available. It hurts that she isn’t here to be with her children and grandchildren. This is the little that I can do, for other families with loved ones diagnosed with Myeloma.