The Tokyo IMF Patient & Family Seminar began just like any other meeting – people rushing about getting their name badges, finding a seat, greeting old friends, making new ones. As I looked around, it was obvious to me that a new tradition was being born for IMF Japan. This seminar would be the first of many.
The meeting commenced with a moment of silence in honor of IMF Japan founder Aki Horinouchi. Aki was instrumental in organizing this first IMF Patient & Family Seminar in Japan. Sadly, Aki died on September 24, 2000, just a few weeks before the meeting.
The meeting was truly a memorial to the brave man who did so much for so many patients, not only in Japan but around the world. Aki’s widow Midori gave a brief welcome and expressed her gratitude to IMF Japan Board of Directors and to the myeloma community for their help in making Aki’s dream of holding this seminar become a reality.
It was then my task to read some very beautiful and emotional messages from members of the List Serv, expressing how much Aki had impacted their lives and what a difference he had made. I was trying hard not to cry but as I looked around the room I saw that everyone was crying – the patients, their families, even the doctors. There was not a dry eye in the room. It was a catharsis. We needed to collectively grieve for Aki.
Once we all composed ourselves, Dr. Durie had the honor of presenting to Midori a plaque commemorating Aki’s work on behalf of the myeloma community.
The educational session began with Dr. Durie’s Myeloma 101 presentation and a talk on bone problems. At first, the attendees seemed hesitant to ask questions but it very quickly turned into a typically lively IMF Q&A session. We were assisted by simultaneous translators who did an excellent job of bridging two languages into a seamless stream of the universal language spoken by myeloma patients worldwide.
The next speaker was Dr. Steve Treon who covered serotherapy and biotherapy. This gave patients a glimpse of what Dr. Treon and the team at the Dana Farber Cancer Center are doing in advancing the treatment for myeloma. Accompanying Dr. Treon on this trip was his 4-year-old son Christian. Exceptionally well behaved, Christian sat quietly throughout the meeting listening to the translators via his earphones. When Dr. Durie and Dr. Treon went up to answer questions, Christian decided he wanted to be a part of the panel and rushed up to join the doctors, doing his best to answer even the most difficult questions!
The First IMF Japan seminar was a very moving and memorable experience. We are confident that IMF Japan will continue to grow and will conduct more Patient & Family Seminars in the future. The IMF is commited to supporting their efforts and we look forward to returning to Japan next year for another meeting.
IMF Japan board of directors and seminar committee