Stacy Blain
Stacy Blain

Going Through It Together
Saturday, May 06
So, we are sitting on the bus right now on our way to Sedona, Arizona, the halfway stop on the way to the Grand Canyon, and Catherine and I are laughing and fussing about something and Bernadette, one of our fellow travelers, just said “you two are like sisters.”
 
That makes me smile, but that’s how I feel about her and why this hike is so important and so fun. Whenever we are together, we have to make an action point list so that we can get through all of our important topics before one of us has to go.
 
If nothing else, this hike gives us lots of times to talk! The hike is tomorrow. That is actually sort of surreal … after so many months of thinking about this, about fundraising, about training, here we go. I am excited, I am nervous, I am honored, I am ready. I think climbing the Grand Canyon and this hike is a metaphor for life.
 
I am sure that some moments tomorrow will be amazing, breathtaking and thrilling, but some will be torturous, painful and scary. Just like dealing with multiple myeloma. But, we will put one foot in front of the other and get it done. What choice do we have? We can be scared or nervous or worried that we made a mistake even signing up, but that will just use up precious energy, which frankly I think will need.
 
Anxiety is heavy. Worrying about the future is heavy. Worrying about what will happen to Catherine in the future is heavy. So, we choose NOT to worry, to have faith in science, in organizations like the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) to help Catherine and all of the patients with multiple myeloma.
 
Yesterday, Congress voted to increase the National Institutes of Health budget, instead of decreasing it as expected. This is a huge sigh of relief for those of us in research and on the funding front lines. But, in reality, it is only a temporary reprieve because next year’s budget might be cut again and we will have to stress about that all over again.
 
So, uncertainty is probably here to stay, and thus, it is even more important for everyone to support causes like the MMRF now. Everyone will be touched by cancer at some point in his or her lifetime. That is a fact. So, let’s all start fighting it today.
 
Call your congress people, eat right, exercise and start talking about it. Start donating to private organizations like the MMRF, which are doing something to help us all.  As I am about to hike tomorrow, I thank all of my donors. Your support means so much, and trust me, your donation will do so much good for so many people.
 
People keep saying that it is so great that I am able to support Catherine in this hike. What most don’t realize is that she is the one supporting me. She keeps me going all of the time and I’m sure tomorrow will be no different. I don’t pretend to know what she is going through dealing with multiple myeloma, but I know that we will go through it together. I will be by her side and we will continue to laugh and fuss tomorrow and for years to come.
 
Friends Don't Let Friends Go It Alone
Wednesday, April 26
As a research scientist, I spend a lot of my time writing grants describing future projects in order to get the money to do that work. I have written grants about multiple myeloma for several years and almost always started with the line, “Despite recent advances in treatment, relapse almost always occurs.” I remember the moment my plane coming back from vacation had just touched down, when I turned my phone back on and the husband of my friend Catherine called as they had just confirmed her diagnosis. I saw the words that I had written so many times and at first thought that this was a penance for maybe not thinking about the significance of those words enough. Instead, those words and that moment have become a push to keep me going.
 
In the last few years, I have taken several professional leaps and I wonder if I would have been so brave if not for Catherine and her multiple myeloma. I started a biotech company to license and commercialize some of the technology I had discovered in my academic lab. I applied for tenure, which involved putting myself out there to my peers and colleagues and being judged. I had to navigate the terrible funding crisis that has plagued the U.S. and the National Institutes of Health and had to be creative to keep things going. And Catherine has always been there, clearly pushing, focusing and giving me the confidence to stay the course. For my birthday last year, she gave me a Leatherman knife, and she engraved it with the phrase “GET IT DONE.”
 
So that’s how I feel about this hike and this journey that Catherine and I are on. Let’s do this. Let’s show people that Catherine feels great and can do this. That because of research, there are drugs today to enable her to do this. That we aren’t worrying about what the future holds, because frankly we don’t know what the future holds. That we are enjoying the now, that we are saying yes. Yes, to starting a company, yes to taking risks, yes to hiking one of the most beautiful places that I have always wanted to see with one of my best friends, yes to life.
 
Catherine hates the phrase “cancer journey.” I prefer “life journey” because cancer is a part of life. It is a part of everyone’s life. There is not a person out there that is not touched by cancer and if we talked about it more, we would take away its power. Catherine said in her birthday speech to me this year that she and I would be on this “journey” for years and years. Catherine is part of the family that I chose. She had always supported me as a friend to me and my children, but now she is entwined in my professional life as well, nudging, pushing, guiding, the voice in my ear.
 
Science is this strange profession. There are all of these really talented, smart people competing for a small pot of money so that they can do what they were trained to do. The goal is to make scientists limitless, so that they are only limited by their imaginations and not their resources. Going on this hike feels very important to me, as it is one more way to show people what research can do, what an organization like the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation can do, what scientists can do if you give them the chance. A decade ago, most multiple myeloma patients would not be able to do something this rigorous. Ten drugs in 10 years! I know how hard that is and I am blown away by that figure. But, it also inspires me, because all those drugs were created by scientists just like me who imagined a better way. Scientists who understood “get it done” and did. 
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