In 2015, Jenn Collins, an active Prince George mother of three young children who enjoyed skiing and playing softball, started experiencing severe pain in her ribs and shoulder.
When the pain became unbearable, Jenn consulted her doctor. Initial test results showed abnormalities in her bloodwork and kidney function, common symptoms of the disease that she would soon be diagnosed with. Jenn went home after her appointment and was quickly advised to go to the emergency department. Immediately admitted to the hospital, Jenn would undergo a series of tests over the next 10 days that revealed that she had multiple myeloma, a little-known and incurable cancer of the plasma cells. She was just 37 years old.
“When I got the news, I went numb,” said Jenn. “The shock set in when doctors told me that I had just three to five years to live. I realized I wouldn’t see my kids grow up. I was devastated. I wanted to be there for my kids.”
Shortly after her diagnosis, Jenn underwent extensive chemotherapy in preparation for a stem cell transplant in May 2015. The procedure was a success, and Jenn spent the next four years in remission. Sadly, in November 2019 the myeloma resurfaced, and she would have to find another treatment regimen to keep her cancer in check. Jenn underwent another round of chemotherapy and was scheduled to receive a second stem cell transplant this spring. Disappointedly, due to circumstances caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic, Jenn’s procedure has been postponed.
In the meantime, Jenn’s condition is relatively stable. She is grateful to be able to watch her children grow and to be an active part of their lives. She is now able to resume her favourite activities including skiing, playing softball and going for walks with her family, which she says helps her physically and mentally.
“I know I’m not out of the woods yet,” said Jenn. “But I feel very lucky to be alive and to know that I have access to new treatments. This gives me hope for the future, which is why I’m doing all I can to get the word out and help researchers find a cure by fundraising for myeloma.”
Over the past five years, Jenn has seen, first-hand, the life-changing impact that advances in myeloma research are having on the lives of those living with this incurable cancer. Jenn and her family are more intent than ever to raise as much awareness and funds for myeloma as they can, and will be participating in Myeloma Canada’s fourthannual Prince George Multiple Myeloma March, taking place on Saturday, September 19 at 10 a.m.
This year’s Prince George March has been modified to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In compliance with physical distancing measures, participants are encouraged to hold their own walk in their neighbourhood at the same time as the regularly scheduled March: Saturday, September 19. Jenn and her fellow marchers have set their fundraising goal at $18,000 to help further crucial research for this deadly blood cancer that affects nine new Canadians every day.
“Myeloma research has produced extremely promising results over the past two decades. In fact, for the first time, there is potential for a cure,” said Farah McKenzie, Nurse Practitioner at BC Cancer of the North who supports the Price George Multiple Myeloma March. “We can’t afford to let the current situation stop the progress we’ve made and put vulnerable people living with myeloma at risk, which is why it’s more crucial than ever to invest in research and find a cure.”
The Multiple Myeloma March, Myeloma Canada’s flagship fundraiser is now in its 12th year. The annual five-kilometer event brings Canadian communities together to raise essential funds for research and to help improve the lives of all Canadians impacted by myeloma. Prince George is one of a record 33 communities across the country to be included in this year’s Multiple Myeloma March. The national fundraising goal is set at $650,000. To learn more about how this event will be working, please click here.
“While this year’s March will undoubtedly be different because of the pandemic, it’s crucial to stay positive,” says Martine Elias, Executive Director of Myeloma Canada. “Fundraising has taken a huge hit for many organizations. We need to do all we can to increase awareness and raise essential funds for research that will improve the lives of Canadians impacted by myeloma, and bring us closer to a cure,” Martine added. “As we mark Myeloma Canada’s 15th anniversary, we celebrate the strength of our incredible community. More than ever, we’re counting on our supporters to help us achieve our goal of $650,000. Canadians impacted by this incurable cancer are depending on us.”
This year, a minimum of 50 per cent of funds raised by the Multiple Myeloma March will go directly to support Myeloma Canada’s Myeloma Research Priority Setting Partnership (PSP), the first program of its kind in myeloma. The PSP will use input provided by the Canadian myeloma community to identify and define investments in myeloma research over the next 18 months. The balance raised will go toward supporting various myeloma research projects and initiatives that are pivotal for improving quality of life and moving the needle toward a cure.
Multiple myeloma, also known as myeloma, is the second most common form of blood cancer. Myeloma affects a type of immune cell called the plasma cell, found in the bone marrow. Every day, nine Canadians are diagnosed, yet in spite of its growing prevalence, the disease remains relatively unknown. While there is no cure, people with myeloma are living longer and better lives, thanks to recent breakthroughs in treatment. To find the cure, more funding and research are required. To learn more, or to donate, please visit www.myeloma.ca.
About Myeloma Canada
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the creation of Myeloma Canada, the only national charitable organization created by, and for, Canadians impacted by multiple myeloma. The organization is driven to improve the lives of those affected by myeloma by empowering the community through awareness, education and advocacy programs, and supporting research to find a cure. Since its founding in 2005, Myeloma Canada has been making myeloma matter. To learn more, or to donate, please visit www.myeloma.ca.