A fundraising march in Halifax on Sunday was held in honour of a man who lost his life to multiple myeloma, but also to support those currently living with the disease.
The 12th annual Leo Senz Multiple Myeloma March has grown since it was first started by Julie Salsman a year after she was diagnosed with the disease in 2008.
“Our first year we walked in the public gardens. We raised a total of $53, which was not a lot but it was something,” she told Global News.
The following year, Leo Senz, a member of her support group, volunteered to help with fundraising. They were able to raise $10,000 that year.
“In 2013, unfortunately, Leo lost his battle with myeloma. His family has carried on his tradition and we renamed our walk in his honour,” said Salsman.
“It’s huge to have his name carry on something that’s going to be here for a long time to come and that’s why all our family is here. ”
Myeloma is a type of blood cancer that impacts white blood cells. There is no cure, but fundraising efforts like this march are helping to find more treatments.
This year’s event in Halifax raised more than $16,000.
“These marches are extremely important to raise awareness and to raise funds for research,” said Elise Doiron, who was diagnosed with myeloma in 2020, at the age of 34.
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Doiron, who is the mother of two young children, said her diagnosis changed her life and was extremely shocking.
It prompted her to think about her priorities.
“It really opened my eyes to what’s important to life and how I go about my day-to-day life,” she explained.
“I am present in the moment and just enjoy everything now more. It’s been challenging of course, took me two years to get to where I am.”
Doiron said she was bed-bound for months, but with the help of treatment through a clinical trial, she progressed to using walker and then a cane. Now, she says she’s back to being fully functional.
“I was really lucky to have access to this treatment. It would be nice for other people to have the opportunity that I’ve had because it basically saved my life,” she said.
Michelle Oana, director of development and community relations with Myeloma Canada, said events like this one in Halifax will lead to more treatment options.
“Just a short five years ago, there was maybe four to five treatments available for myeloma and 15 years ago, there was just one. And now we’re up to over a dozen types of treatments and more,” she said.
“There’s so much more in the pipeline that’s coming.”