This year, Myeloma Awareness Month at the IMF was made even more special with the help of hundreds of advocates who spread awareness in their communities. From Wasilla to Boca Raton, local officials expressed their support of myeloma patients and the need for a cure. Your effort and outreach touched thousands of people encouraging new advocates to raise their voices, start support groups, and show all myeloma patients and their loved ones that people in their communities care for them. Therefore, we honor each and every one of you as Advocates of the Month!
Last month, we wrote about Cindy Ralston whose email request enabled many people to contact their elected officials and request a proclamation in their town. Carolyn Higgins reached out to Mayor Mike Davis of Dunwoody, Georgia to ask him to issue the proclamation. During their meeting, she learned that he too had been affected by myeloma. He lost his grandmother to myeloma in 1975 because there was no treatment, so the once 4’8” lady, shrunk to 3'9" and passed away soon after diagnosis. Laura Mooney of Staten Island, NY had a similar experience where the borough press secretary called her while typing the proclamation to ask about myeloma because a close friend had just started treatment that week.
In Wasilla, Alaska, Bryan Geary knew the former Mayor Curt Menard had passed away from myeloma in 2009, three years into his term as mayor. Menard was diagnosed in 2003, but that did not stop him from running and winning his mayoral seat in 2006. Geary was pleased to honor the former mayor this way and share his own story of myeloma with Menard’s family.
Other advocates used their personal connections to reach their local officials. Newly diagnosed in February 2013, Tim Gavallas of Watertown, Connecticut contacted one of his buddies on the town council for its support. At the city council meeting, “Council chairman Ray Primini, who I have known for 18 years, choked up reading aloud about my battle with myeloma.” Tim’s story was later published in the TownTimes. In North Carolina, Advocate Brenda Stubbs called upon her son-in-law, Mayor pro-temps in Mooresville, to issue a proclamation and her grandson accepted it on her behalf at the Mooresville Town Council meeting.
Thanks to media outreach by advocates, we have heard stories of patients or loved ones reaching out for support for the first time. Hal Anderson’s story was on the front page of the local paper after the Michigan State House of Representatives issued a proclamation from his request. The following day he received a call from an 85-year-old woman who had never talked to anyone else that had myeloma. He is going to pick her up for the next support group meeting so she can connect with even more patients. Linda Huguelet, support group leader for the Chattanooga Tennessee group, had an article run in three local papers and was interviewed on local TV and radio programs about myeloma resulting in many new patients at her last meeting.
While we will never know the true reach of Myeloma Awareness Month, we do know that every day new people learned about myeloma. In advocate Mary Polancih’s remarks to the Madison City Council she said, “If you have never heard of Multiple Myeloma before tonight, this proclamation is doing what we intended.” A few days later, a friend of a friend recognized her as the person who spoke at the Council meeting. “He said he had learned about myeloma for the first time when he watched a TV broadcast of the meeting. I guess the proclamation is getting the word out there even without flashy media coverage. More like stones dropped into a lake, the ripples go out in all directions farther than we can cast.”
Every proclamation, every article and every one of you made an impact and should be proud of the amazing achievement made collectively with over 60 proclamations issued throughout the US! In this time in government right now, there is a lot of frustration and distrust, but Myeloma Awareness Month showed us that every voice makes a difference and that elected officials really do work for the people. Thank you all for your amazing work!
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