We are international

For the past three years, the myeloma support groups of Southern California have joined forces to hold the first support group meeting of the year. Area support group members look forward to this event with great anticipation. So it was no surprise that on January 12, 2002 the meeting attracted an over-capacity crowd of attendees. More than 125 southern California myeloma patients and caregivers gathered to rejoice, share, and learn.

The rejoicing came in the form of enjoying good food and good company. As a caregiver and member of the Los Angeles Area Multiple Myeloma Support Group, I have found participating in social events to be an important part of therapeutic care, contributing to a more positive mental attitude – an important underpinning in any treatment situation.

The sharing came through discussion and mutual support offered in friendly, informal conversation – learning from each other about personal reactions to a treatment regimen, a dosage adjustment, a lotion to reduce itching, or a chair that helps ease back pain.

The learning portion of the day consisted of presentations by three myeloma specialists from the Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles – Drs. James Berenson, Robert Vescio, and Hank Yang. Education, a key empowering tool in a patient’s battle with myeloma, is always a highlight of our meetings and we were honored to host such an excellent panel of speakers.

Dr. Berenson’ presentation included basic information as well as updates on the latest results from clinical trials and other research projects presented at the December 2001 ASH conference.

Dr. Vescio’s presentation focused on the various types of myeloma, risk factors, and drugs in clinical trials.

Dr. Yang discussed the research approach to multiple myeloma, including results of clinical trials investigating PS-341, arsenic trioxide, and others.

Drs. Hank Yang and Robert Vescio prepare for their presentations.

The sessions engaged all in attendance – from the newly diagnosed to the myeloma veterans – and the question and answer portion of the event encouraged the participants to engage in a dialogue with the myeloma experts.

The meeting was sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals and was held at The Colony at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California. Hosted and organized by IMFer Sheila Field, the event was also supported by the Los Angeles and San Diego myeloma support groups, the International Myeloma Foundation, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Support group meetings such as this are beneficial in many ways, offering support and encouragement, and exposing patients and caregivers to a broad range of useful information. I would encourage all members of the myeloma patient and caregiver community to seek out and join a myeloma support group. To learn about the support groups in your area, please contact the IMF.

Editor’s Note: To date, the Los Angeles support group Circle of Friends fundraising efforts have generated more than $300,000 for myeloma research through contributions to the IMF from patients, their families and friends.<