Yolande Paine was at the boarding gate for her flight to join her husband in P.E.I. when she got a call from her doctor’s office that would change the course of her life.
At the other end of the line was a hematologist, a blood specialist, calling to schedule a bone biopsy that would eventually lead to a diagnosis of smouldering myeloma, an early version of multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer.
It was June 2012, and Paine, who had been living in North Vancouver, had been feeling a little off for months. Blood tests in January had shown her white blood cells were just below normal. Her doctors tried to reassure her that it was likely just a normal cold or flu bug.
“I trusted my instincts and thought that we should investigate it further,” said Paine.
Paine, now 66 years old, had also lost her father to a blood cancer and is a breast cancer survivor after a diagnosis 24 years ago.
Paine underwent a stem cell transplant four years ago and is in remission now. She continues drug therapy to keep it that way.
“People do have good instincts, and I think you have to follow them,” said Paine, who has a summer home in Augustine Cove, P.E.I., and will be one of the people attending a special multiple myeloma awareness and fundraising march Saturday in Summerside.
What: First annual Summerside Multiple Myeloma March
When: Sept. 26, registration at 1:30 p.m., walk starts at 2 p.m.
Where: Loyalist Country Inn, 195 Heather Moyse Dr., Summerside
How: Show up, sign up online at myeloma.ca or email the sisters at email@example.com.
Also attending will be P.E.I. sisters Megan Gardiner and Bethany Reeves, who know the realities of this disease all too well.
Their father, retired Anglican priest Wilfred Wagner, was diagnosed with myeloma just days before he died in 2014 at age 78.
“That’s kind of where it started,” said Gardiner, who is organizing the event with her sister.
Then in 2018, Megan’s husband, Dwight Gardiner, then 53, was diagnosed with smouldering myeloma. Like Paine’s, it was caught in time for treatment.
In 2019, Dwight’s aunt, Lorna Cairns, was diagnosed with myeloma. What started as anemia turned into weight loss and increasing bone pain. She received some radiation and chemotherapy treatments but died in January 2020 at 79 years old.
“That just set it in stone that we needed to do more and get some awareness out there and fight for some research, finding a cure for this,” said Gardiner.
Gardiner and Reeves are hosting P.E.I.’s first ever Multiple Myeloma March at the Loyalist Country Inn in Summerside.
“It looks like good weather, so we’re really lucky that way. We can get our legs working and see what we can do to raise the awareness,” she said.
Gardiner was happy to say have surpassed their goal of $8,000, as of Thursday afternoon they had raised more than $9,400.
Alison Jenkins is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government, working in Prince County. firstname.lastname@example.org 902-303-2690