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Spring 2004 Volume 5, Issue 10:
IMF Kicks Off 2004 Seminars with Florida Retreat
By Stephen Robertson
In talking with first-time participants as well as those who had attended IMF seminars previously, it is very evident that no matter how many of these wonderful weekends one has been to, there is always new, pertinent information available.
On January 23-25, I attended my first IMF Patient & Family Seminar at the Wyndham Bonaventure in the city of Weston just outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For weeks prior to this weekend, I’d had the pleasure of speaking to myeloma patients, family members, caregivers, and support group leaders, as well as local Florida nurses and physicians. As a new addition to the IMF family, I approached my first Patient & Family event with a tremendous feeling of excitement and anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed.
Terry Nalband and Susie Novis Mr. & Mrs. Francis Abel

Friday morning, as attendees began arriving at the Registration Desk, I had the pleasure of meeting our invaluable board members Mike Katz and Don Woodward, and Don’s lovely wife Annette. There was a real sense of community and excitement as everyone assembled to hear IMF president and founder Susie Novis welcome all the attendees and introduce the retreat’s distinguished faculty of Myeloma experts: Drs. Brian Durie, Robert Kyle, Maurizio Zangari, Mohamad Hussein, and Lewis Mehl-Madrona.

Dr. Mohamad Hussein Dr. Maurizio Zangari

The topics covered by this renowned group over the next few days included Myeloma Overview, Initial Therapy, Transplantation, Novel Therapies, Supportive Care, Combination Drug Therapies, and Alternative Healing.

As participants continued to arrive throughout Friday and Saturday, I was delighted to at last meet long-time IMF supporters Kerri and Anthony Marioni, who successfully launched the Hair Cares member fundraiser, as well as Terry and Howard Herman, who helped turn the Mail For A Cure campaign into a resounding success.

At Friday evening’s Cocktail Reception and Welcome Dinner, I finally got to meet IMF board member Rich Saletan and his wife Suzanne, as well as IMFers Joe and Melissa Vaccaro and their adorable daughter Marisa.

Suzanne Saletan, Dr. Robert Kyle, Rich Saletan, and Susie Novis

Myeloma support groups from all over the country were also very well represented. At the donor Recognition Dinner on Saturday evening, Susie expressly thanked support group leaders Chuck and Pat Koval from Madison, WI, Andy and Cathy Lebkuecher from Atlanta, GA, and Ken and Mary Makowka of Wilton, CT. Representing the many local Florida support groups were leaders Vicki Anderson of Miami, Terry Nalband of Palm Beach, John and Dorothy Russell of Inverness, and Jean and Bill Brady of Broward County/Fort Lauderdale.

The Feltzin Family Ken and Mary Makowka
with Susie Novis

Besides working tirelessly as support group leaders, many of those mentioned above have also been staunch supporters of IMF programs. Susie and I (with the help of little Marisa Vaccaro) were pleased to pay tribute to these IMFers along with Dr. Don Flatt, Jim Kilma, Martin and Kim Rubin, Melvin Bernhaut, Joseph and Frances Spaid, Beth Morgan and Barb Baxter, Bob, Cindy and Melanie Feltzin, Scheri Tamlyn (in absentia), and Wendy and Barry Breslow. Speaking of Wendy Breslow, we’re very pleased that she has kindly agreed to be on the Steering Committee for IMF Gala in November. Again, we wish to thank all our members, donors, and support group leaders for their tremendous generosity. Without you, the IMF would not be able to fulfill its mission of education, research, advocacy, and support.

Dr. Don Flatt attends his 8th
IMF Patient & Family Seminar!
Joseph and Frances Spaid

In talking with first-time participants as well as those who had attended IMF seminars previously, it is very evident that no matter how many of these wonderful weekends one has been to, there is always new, pertinent information available. But perhaps even more empowering than the medical information you gain, is the knowledge that you are not alone, that there are many, many others who share your experience and who understand what you’re going through. We at the IMF know this and are committed to being there for you every step of the way.

Our littlest volunteer,Marisa Vaccaro,
assists Susie Novis during award presention

I had heard what an opportunity these seminars provide to patients, caregivers, and health care professionals to interact and get the latest information on myeloma in a supportive and empowering setting. But actually seeing the invaluable benefits that individual patients derived from one-on-one consultations with our expert faculty members, as well as the extraordinary sense of community and support, is something I’ll never forget. I truly was not prepared for the heartfelt gratitude that so many of this event’s participants extended to me and the entire IMF team.

Patient and caregiver consult with Dr. Durie.

On Sunday, many of the retreat’s attendees took the opportunity to participate in a variety of special activities: yoga class, nutrition class, and nature walk through the beautiful grounds. The weather was spectacular, truly Florida at its best, and these additional activities provided a really nice way to wind down the weekend. The group said their goodbyes at a farewell luncheon, having truly benefited from the memorable experience of the retreat format of this particular IMF Patient & Family seminar event.

The appreciation and feedback that I continue to hear from everyone in attendance is phenomenal. I have to admit, it touches me immeasurably to feel a part of a foundation that provides a truly valuable service to those affected by myeloma, and to be welcomed and acknowledged so warmly by so many of those at my first IMF event. I look forward to attending many more IMF events in the future and look forward to seeing familiar faces as well as meeting more of our members.

Have a safe and healthy 2004 and remember:

“Until There is a Cure... There is the IMF.”

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