The Central Nebraska Multiple Myeloma Support Group was founded by Mary Lou Russell, a myeloma patient, about seven years ago. Mary Lou has the sparkle and energy of Susie Novis. I serve as the group's facilitator. We meet in a beautiful community room graciously donated by Home Federal, a local bank, on the third Wednesday of every month. The group has become our source of information and support, and I challenge other patients and caregivers to start myeloma groups in their local communities. It only takes one committed person and the help of the IMF. The rewards are enormous!
Our support group had a special treat in September of 2005 when Greg Brozeit, IMF Advocacy Consultant, spoke to our monthly gathering. Greg was to be the first outside speaker to make a presentation at our meetings. Prior to his arrival, Donna Wernke called each member of our group to remind them of the upcoming meeting. Donna faithfully calls our members every month as the meeting day approaches. In September, in addition to Donna's calls, we had promoted Greg's visit at local medical facilities. As a result, our usual attendance of no more than 10 swelled to over 20!
During his presentation, Greg explained how genomics and proteomics are exposing cancer's dark and dirty secrets. All types of this disease are being shown to have similar characteristics. Greg emphasized the commonality of all cancer patients and shared his conviction that the most effective advocacy must take into consideration the needs of the entire cancer community instead of focusing on individual diseases such as breast, prostate, lung cancer, etc. He also pointed out the political realities in Washington, DC, and the unique independent voting patterns of Senator Nelson and Senator Hagel. Greg energized and challenged our group to become more politically active and advocate for cancer research.
We mused over Greg's observation that all of us enjoy the friendships within our group, but if we had our choice we would all prefer to have never been a part of it! But, even though myeloma is the pits, we've turned it into a source of new friends. Through the IMF, that circle has expanded to include Greg, Andy, Robin, Susie, Nancy, Debbie, and many others. Greg's presentation lived up to our advance billing and everyone left the two-hour meeting inspired.
Greg's sojurn to Nebraska had its origin in July as we became re-acquainted during the 2005 IMF Support Group Leader Retreat held at the R. David Thomas Conference Center at Duke University. I asked Greg why he would find Nebraska a worthwhile trip and reminded him that our membership numbers don't come anywhere close to those of the myeloma support groups in Georgia or Texas. His kind answer emphasized quality over quantity and the fact that the IMF is committed to supporting each and every myeloma group regardless of size.