This week would mark my Dad's 52nd birthday. Poignantly, it is also National Myeloma Awareness Week - a campaign week aimed at raising awareness and understanding of the type of cancer he lost his life to, just a couple of months ago.
Myeloma is an aggressive cancer of the bone marrow arising from cells in the blood plasma. It affects multiple parts of the body and causes a great deal of pain to sufferers. As healthy plasma cells produce antibodies, people with Myeloma are at a high risk of infection due to having an immune system which is not functioning properly.
Myeloma patients find that, as the disease progresses, their bones become weakened, painful and fragments may even begin to break away, as tumours riddle the bone marrow. Areas which are usually most affected are the spine and pelvis, skull and rib-cage.
Complications which frequently arise in myeloma patients concern the kidneys: the blood becomes too viscous due to the abnormal plasma cells and the kidneys can become 'clogged up' as a result. Many Myeloma patients develop kidney failure - it was actually this stage that alerted the doctors to what was happening with my Dad.
And that brings me on to the important message behind the Myeloma Awarness Campaign. For many patients - including my Dad - their cancer can go undiagnosed as doctors remain baffled by their symptoms. As Myeloma is such a rare type of cancer (around 4000 people are diagnosed in the UK each year) with such varied and unspecific symptoms, it goes largely unrecognised by GPs. When it finally is discovered, its often too late.
There is no known cure for Myeloma but treatment can halt the progress of the disease and enable patients to regain some semblance of a 'normal' life. This chance is hugely increased if the disease is caught at an early stage, before multiple systems in the body are affected. The Myeloma UK website, with a wealth of information about Myeloma and the campaign, can be found HERE.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this far - it would be fantastic if you could pass this information along, either by linking to my blog or to the Myeloma UK website itself. And if I could ask one final thing of you, it would be this...
If you are a UK resident, please sign up to the TAKE 2 campaign.
You will be sent a Diagnosis Pathway document which you can take to your doctor, next time you visit the surgery.
I can only imagine what a difference it could have made, if only my Dad's doctor had had one.