Stacy Blain
Stacy Blain

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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