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Cindy Ralston, March Advocate of the Month

Cindy RalstonHappy Myeloma Awareness Month!!! Thanks to our Advocate of the Month many people across the country are officially celebrating March as Myeloma Awareness Month.  Cindy Ralston, Myeloma Action Team member and Kansas City Support Group Leader, successfully passed a proclamation in her town declaring MAM. She then drafted an email for the folks in her support group that could be customized to each person’s city or town, which was used as template for everyone requesting a proclamation be passed. Cindy also made herself available as a resource to those who had questions about the process.

Overall Cindy and her support group got six towns in the area to declare March as Myeloma Awareness Month. The group has also done amazing work collecting postcards. I asked her to speak about her involvement with advocacy and her support group.

March 2013 Advocate of the MonthAdlai E. Stevenson once said, “Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” This is true of myeloma and what it brought into my life. Since being involved in a support group since 1996, I have come to realize the many physical and mental challenges that myeloma brings to each one of our members and their supporters. Through this association, it has brought us closer together. I refer to my group as my "Myeloma Family."  We share our joys and sorrows, all while supporting each other as we travel the myeloma pathway. From our support group members to the IMF Staff and other support group leaders across the country who share and help each other to support, educate, and enhance the lives of the myeloma community. They are truly the strength behind the battle to fight myeloma until there is a cure.

March 2013 Advocate of the MonthThroughout the years, our members have inspired me with their courage and determination to fight the disease. Once you are aware of myeloma and how it touches the lives of the patients, how could I not get involved?  There isn't a lot I can do to ease the disease, but through advocacy, I can improve awareness and hopefully make a difference in the lives of myeloma patients in the future.

Myeloma Awareness Month (MAM) seemed like a great way to do just that. I first reached out to the Mayor of my town to request a proclamation. He lives in my neighborhood, therefore, he immediately approved MAM the day he received my letter. My quick response from the City of Shawnee, Kansas, gave me confidence that I was on the right track for gaining approval for MAM; and inspired me to get my whole support group involved.

March Advocate of the MonthWhat I have found over the years as a support group leader is to not be hesitant to ask for help; sometimes it comes when you least expect it. Not everyone is able to get involved due to the stage of their illness, however, when you listen and watch you can find those who are able and want to make a contribution. I found a way to make it as easy as possible for my support group members to get involved. I created a template for them to apply to their cities for MAM.  I composed a general informational letter about myeloma and why it is important for people to gain awareness. I sent this to my members and then asked them if they knew someone on the city council to email them the request. I found that having a contact or connection really increases your chances of success. Several of the cities we targeted did not respond due to the lack of having a contact. To date we have received proclamations from: Shawnee, KS; Kansas City, KS; Lenexa, KS; Sugar Creek, MO; Independence, MO; and Kansas City, MO.

Cindy’s initiative to get more group members involved played an intricate role in the IMF’s Myeloma Awareness efforts and we cannot thank her enough for her leadership. Click here read about all the ways you can be involved with Myeloma Awareness Month

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