Myeloma – Treatment Mile by Mile

Pam Taylor, a founding committee member of the Miles for Myeloma fundraiser and education symposium talks about her treatment for the second most common cause of blood cancer.

As she sits with her husband and sister, wrapped in a blanket receiving infusion, Pam Taylor talks about a two-day cycling event that has raised millions of dollars for a disease her body is fighting.

For the 14th year, myeloma patients, family members and IU Health practitioners have taken part in the 200-mile bike ride – “Miles for Myeloma.” This year’s event – September 21 and 22, culminated with a dinner and education symposium. Started by IU Myeloma researcher and IU Health physician Dr. Rafat Abonour, the event has raised more than $5 million toward increasing patient care, support and advocacy.

“This event is important for several reasons. First, raising awareness about the disease and obviously raising money for research which is the only way they are going to find a cure,” said Taylor. She was diagnosed in November of 2002.

“I had a couple of broken ribs and persistent low hemoglobin,” said Taylor of her symptoms. She visited several specialists and eventually became a patient of Dr. Abonour. “Since 2002 I have been on just about every drug available to treat Myeloma. I’ve had two stem cell transplants, several rounds of chemotherapy including a four-day hospital admission for a continuous drip. My life has changed and I guess I feel like my new normal.” For someone who once enjoyed fishing with her husband of 25 years, William David “Dub” Taylor, she now feels tired and experiences shortness of breath and nausea.

When she was at her best Taylor was able to join her niece Sarah Honchul for a portion of the relay – a memory that still makes her smile. She speaks highly of the man who started the two-day ride and continues to participate – Dr. Abonour.

“He’s the best. He’s compassionate; he’s very knowledgeable and is renowned in the professional world traveling all over talking about myeloma. He doesn’t make decisions for me, he makes decisions with me,” said Taylor. Her sister Tamra Honchul added: “He focuses on the patient’s quality of life not just the treatment. He encourages patients to take trips, visit family and see the world.”

From 2005 to 2015, Miles for Myeloma raised $3 million for Multiple Myeloma research at the IU Simon Cancer Center. Since 2016 Miles for Myeloma has been a joint effort, supporting both myeloma research at the Indiana University School of Medicine and enhanced Myeloma patient care at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. 

While Myeloma is an incurable disease, laboratory researchers are focusing on connecting the relationship between Myeloma cells, the bone marrow and the bone in order to prescribe therapies that target characteristics of the disease. Additionally new drugs and treatment options are being explored through clinical trials.

“Every day I hope is a day closer to finding a cure,” said Taylor. “Right now we’re having a big problem because a lot of the treatments have stopped working which is why it isn’t curable. I’m hopeful and holding out that I’ll get into a clinical trial.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.