(BPT) – Imagine sitting in a doctor's office and being told you have an incurable form of blood cancer that you've never even heard of. A disease that sometimes has no symptoms and no known cause. A type of cancer that leads patients to go through ongoing cycles of relapse and remission before succumbing to disease.
Imagine the shock. The feeling of helplessness. The fear.
This situation is not uncommon for people diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow.
Multiple myeloma is becoming more prevalent in the U.S. due to an increase in diagnoses. However, a survey of 746 multiple myeloma patients showed that 83 percent had no prior knowledge of the disease at diagnosis.
This lack of awareness can contribute to delayed diagnoses, which are associated with a significant impact on the clinical course of the disease.
A new platform to raise awareness
In an effort to help address this lack of awareness, last year Amgen, one of the world's leading biotechnology companies, announced the launch of Blood Counts(TM), a national effort to shed light on multiple myeloma through the sharing of stories.
As part of the campaign, Amgen is working with StoryCorps, a national non-profit that's mission is to preserve and share humanity's stories, to record first-hand accounts from the multiple myeloma community.
Kitty Smith, a 74-year-old multiple myeloma patient from the San Diego area, recently reconnected with her former oncologist, Dr. Paul Cheng, for the first time in two years as part of a Blood Counts interview.
"It's great seeing you Kitty," said Dr. Cheng during their conversation. "I haven't seen you for probably almost two years now and you look great. You know, I miss a lot of my patients, but especially you."
Dr. Cheng treated Smith following her multiple myeloma diagnosis and the pair quickly became close friends.
"When I met you, there was just something that absolutely clicked," Smith said. "I love your sense of humor. I love that when I'm with you I can laugh about cancer and make fun of it."
When Dr. Cheng left his practice, he found another oncologist to continue Smith’s care.
"Although I found you a great doctor to replace me," Dr. Cheng told Smith, "I still felt like, whether it was justified or not, that somehow I'd let you down by leaving."
"I didn't feel that way," Smith replied. "The other patients too. We still talk about you and we still all miss you!"
By sharing real-life emotional accounts, like Smith's and Dr. Cheng's, Blood Counts aims to shed light on what multiple myeloma patients, physicians and caregivers deal with on a day-to-day basis.
How you can help
There are several other ways the public can help raise awareness of multiple myeloma, including:
* Sharing an article or video about the disease with your followers on social media (consider using a popular multiple myeloma hashtag, like #MMaware).
* Participating in a local run/walk dedicated to multiple myeloma awareness.
* Visiting advocacy group websites, including the International Myeloma Foundation and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, to see how else to get involved.
For more information on Blood Counts and to sign-up to participate in an interview, visit www.BloodCounts.com. Select interviews, including Smith's and Dr. Cheng's, will be posted online in 2017.
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