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Report from the Atlanta 2005 Patient & Family Seminar
By Charlotte Pueschel
If you have ever attended a patient and family interactive seminar on myeloma, you already know what a special experience it is. You are able to talk to excellent doctors and you also get to meet other people going through some of the same struggles in myeloma that you are. Of course there is great food, making new friends or connecting with old ones, and learning about support groups. (If there is not one in you area, why don’t you start one?) Or, you can become a buddy for a newly-diagnosed patient by calling the IMF hotline at 800-452-2873.

I knew that I would learn a lot at this, my first seminar on myeloma, but my experience far exceeded my expectations this time. I felt like these people were part of my family! My name is Charlotte Pueschel from Charlotte, North Carolina, and I was diagnosed with IgA multiple myeloma in January of 2004. I underwent an autologous stem cell transplant at Duke University Medical Center in June of 2004, and was in remission until February of 2005. Now it is back to the decadron/thalidomide treatment. I know that many of you can relate!

The Wyndham Peachtree Hotel in Peachtree City, Georgia was the site of the seminar on March 18th and 19th. (Peachtree City is about an hour southwest of downtown Atlanta). The presenters at the seminar were Dr. Brian Durie of the Cedars-Sinai Cancer Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Tom Hefner of Emory University in Atlanta, Dr. Robert Kyle of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Dr. Frits van Rhee from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, and Dr. David Vesole from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Dr. Hefner gave us a complete overview of the disease called “Multiple Myeloma 101.” Dr. Robert Kyle discussed smoldering myeloma, and the indications for therapy, which include an increased m-protein in the urine, decreased hemoglobin, elevated calcium or creatinine, lytic bone lesions, or extramedullary plasmacytoma. Dr. Brian Durie, Chairman of the IMF, discussed myeloma as a bone disease and showed us, in explicit detail on x-ray, how the bones and spine are affected by myeloma. Dr. David Vesole, whose topic was “Novel Therapies,” discussed autologous, allogeneic, and non-ablative allogeneic stem-cell transplants. He also discussed the newly-approved drug Velcade and soon-to-be-approved Revlimid as new, effective therapies for multiple myeloma. Finally, Dr. Frits van Rhee discussed autologous and allogeneic transplants. He is of the opinion that skeletal x-rays should be obsolete since PET (Positron Emission Topography) scans show clearer pictures of the affected bones.

If you have never attended a patient and family seminar, please consider attending one near you. For those of you reading this article whom I met in Atlanta, thank you for touching my life an such a special way. Your strength, humor, humility, and wisdom lifted my spirits and motivated me to touch the lives of others who are going through this disease and the treatments. See you at the next seminar and keep on keeping on!

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