Around 200 people marched from the RCMP Heritage Centre on Sunday to raise money and awareness for a cancer many have never even heard of.
They raised around $14,000 for multiple myeloma research and treatment.
The Multiple Myeloma March happens every September in communities across Canada, but was a first in Regina this weekend. The drive to bring the March to the Queen City was largely begun by Mona Neher, who found out she had the increasingly diagnosed, and currently incurable, disease 13 years ago.
About 15 years ago, Neher was injured while horseback riding. While it was expected she would be a little sore after the accident, she said the pain never really went away.
“I fractured a few ribs and after that, it just seemed I had more aches and pains, more fatigue,” said Neher.
After two years of lingering pain and fatigue, she knew something was up. That’s when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
“I kept thinking it was the horse fall but it was the myeloma already affecting my bones.”
A rare blood cancer that causes rapid growth of white blood cells, multiple myeloma affects the immune system and puts parts of the body like bones and kidneys at risk.
When Neher was diagnosed, she was given a prognosis of three to five years.
“I was just thinking, ‘How am I going to survive this?'” she recalled. “I had two young daughters, 12 and 15 at the time, so my family was devastated.”
But 12 years and two stem cell transplants later, Neher is doing well. Research is slowly developing better treatment options and the prognosis for the cancer has doubled. She hopes more awareness can lead to even better treatments and eventually a cure.
That’s why she wanted to organize Regina’s first Multiple Myeloma March.
“I’m also a support group leader for multiple myeloma in Regina and this has been something I’ve wanted for a long time,” she said.
Speaking ahead of the march, Dr. Ibraheem Othman, a clinical hematologist, said seven new people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Canada every day.
Saskatchewan typically sees 70-75 new cases of myeloma each year.
Neher says that while the money raised will go a long way, awareness of the cancer, and the community the March creates, are also valuable.
“I want people to know it’s a blood cancer, to know it’s serious. That it’s not melanoma, a lot of times people think its melanoma, a skin cancer.”
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Patti Schmidt, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last November, attended the event with dozens of supporters.
“When you have a disease, having the support of others and being with other people and being surrounded by that kind of care, it keeps you moving forward every day,” Schmidt said.