Julie Ryan
Julie Ryan

Gaining Empowerment as Caregivers
Thursday, June 16

My sister, Jana, and I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in January to raise funds and awareness for critical multiple myeloma research. Our team of 15 raised over $240,000, and 90 percent of that is budgeted for myeloma research. Research is so important because climbing mountains won't cure cancer, but research will! 

We came away from our Kilimanjaro experience with something we did not expect: empowerment. As caregivers and the ones who are helping our mother navigate this complex disease and treatment landscape, we realize that this empowerment and knowledge will impact our mother’s health and perhaps her life expectancy. We were able to bring home a renewed and invigorated battle plan for her because we came to understand how important our roles as her caregivers (and daughters) are!  

Our mom, Linda, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2002 and has benefitted from a number of treatments spearheaded and funded by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). But like lots of patients, she had to keep changing her regimen to outsmart myeloma, a cunning disease. 

The Kilimanjaro climb – which included four myeloma patients, a myeloma doctor, an executive from Takeda Oncology (one of the wonderful companies that has developed drugs to help my mom), a representative from the MMRF, a representative from CURE Magazine and others impacted by myeloma – helped us understand how important it is to learn about the treatment options available. This is especially important now, since last year, alone, four new drugs were approved by the FDA. We learned how we need to be informed caregivers for our mother and help her to be informed, too. We learned that we should know the questions to ask her doctor, and that we should seek out a second opinion if we are not sure. We also need to connect with the doctors who are medical experts in this tricky field of multiple myeloma. 

In short, we got something we did not expect on our climb. We gained empowerment from knowing that we can have a hand in helping our mother fight this devastating disease. We don’t’ have to sit back and be passive. We can be active, informed, empowered caregivers and increase our mother’s chances of having a positive outcome and a better quality of life. 

There were so many gifts we gained from climbing that amazing mountain. This was an important one we did not anticipate!


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