In 2016, Delina Gentleman, a retired care aid and mother of three adult children, couldn’t understand what was causing recurrent sharp pain in her shoulder. Initially, she didn’t think much of it and chalked it up to the discomforts of aging. But when the pain was accompanied by severe fatigue, Delina became worried. Little did Delina know, but she had multiple myeloma, also known as myeloma, a little-known and incurable blood cancer. She was 71 years old.
Before Delina’s diagnosis, she sought the help of a physiotherapist to help with her persistent shoulder pain, yet treatments provided no relief. It wasn’t until she began to feel severely run-down and was unable to complete routine daily tasks that Delina visited her doctor. After a series of blood tests and investigations, Delina received her shocking myeloma diagnosis.
“When my mother first told me she had myeloma, I remember feeling blindsided,” said Beth, Delina’s daughter and caregiver. “I had never heard of myeloma. I was filled with all sorts of emotions– anger, sadness, and a lot of fear. We knew something was wrong, but we never expected a cancer diagnosis.”
Delina and Beth are not alone. While myeloma is the second most common form of blood cancer, few people have ever heard of it. The reality is that the number of Canadians living with myeloma is on the rise, increasing the urgent need for greater investment in and access to life-saving treatments and care.
At the time, Beth was living in Ontario, thriving in her career as a research project coordinator and pursuing a Master of Science degree in Biology at Laurentian University. Shortly after learning of her mother’s diagnosis, Beth made the decision to move home to Prince George to be by her mother’s side and take on the role as her primary caregiver.
“I’ve found that what gives you the most pleasure and happiness in life are the connections and relationships that you have with your friends and family,” said Beth. “Throughout my entire life, my mother was always so incredibly supportive and selfless. I knew it was time for me to return the favour.”
Delina’s journey has not been easy. Unfortunately, due to her age, Delina was not eligible to receive a stem cell transplant, a potentially life-prolonging procedure. Delina is now on her third treatment regime to control the myeloma. While she is not in remission, Delina is grateful that her condition is stable.
Today, four years after her diagnosis, Delina is continuing her fight against myeloma. She and Beth remain hopeful that advances in research will keep the cancer at bay and, ultimately, that a cure will be found.
Beth knows first-hand the importance of raising awareness and funds for myeloma research.
“Having worked on clinical trials, I’ve seen the benefits of the advancements that come from research” Beth said. “I want my mom to be here for as long as possible. She has given so much of herself to her family, I want to try to do everything I can in return – even a small degree of what she’s done for us.”
Beth is eager to help those living with myeloma. To help raise awareness and funds, as well as better access to life-saving treatments and care for this incurable cancer, Beth and her family’s team, Delina’s Defenders, will be participating in the sixth annual, 5 km Prince George Multiple Myeloma March on September 17, 2022, at 10 a.m., at Caledonia Nordic Ski Club.
Myeloma Canada’s Multiple Myeloma March is a vital nation-wide event that raises money and awareness for the disease, while bringing local communities closer together in support of one another. Without the funds raised at each of these essential Marches, important investments in myeloma research and drug access would be compromised.
“Every year, we’re getting closer to finding a cure,” said Martine Elias, Executive Director of Myeloma Canada. “That’s why the funds raised at the Prince George March are so critical. They help to keep myeloma research moving forward and to improve the lives of Canadians impacted by this devastating disease.”