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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A perfectly normal life, getting into trouble with the press: Geraldine Ferraro's multiple myeloma

Geraldine Ferraro's story:
Former Congressional and Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro of New York will be the keynote speaker at the second annual "Reaching for a Cure" gala on Friday, May 2, at the Weston Boston Waterfront Hotel, funding research in multiple myeloma for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

I had run for the U.S. Senate in 1998, and was finding that I couldn't get up in the morning or stay up late at night; I was just too tired.

I went to my doctor for my annual checkup. He told me that I had either leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma. The prognosis was three to five years, but he said some patients had lived ten years and were still going strong.

Then my internist sent me to an oncologist/hematologist, and they said we should get an expert in multiple myeloma – Dr. Ken Anderson. He has been been caring for me ever since.

I was put on Aredia once a month. Later, I took thalidomide, and it helped a lot. When the cancer became active again, I went through another clinical trial for another new drug therapy with Revlimid. In December 2004 the doctors harvested my stem cells. I had the transplant in June 2005, the year I turned 70. But ten months later the cancer was active again, so I was put on Velcade. With the treatment, I live a perfectly normal life, giving speeches and getting into trouble with the press.

In 2001 I went public with my disease to help researchers get congressional hearings. I testified to Congress. Friends like Senators Patty Murray, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Barbara Mikulski also knew about my disease, and they sponsored a research bill, the Hematological Cancer Research Investment and Education Act of 2002, and the Geraldine Ferraro Cancer Education program, to educate medical, patient, and policy communities on research advances.

The message is: If diagnosed, this cancer is not the end of the world. There is so much research today, and we can live with multiple myeloma as a chronic disease.

Geraldine Ferraro's advice: Patients need to be informed consumers: If your doctor is not a specialist, contact the people who are. Dana-Farber will answer questions from any doctors who reach out. Press for health care for all, so others can be treated. We have to address the high cost of cancer drugs. Write to your representatives.

Browse for related stories in the index at the very bottom of this page, or read another multiple myeloma story.

Thanks to Katie Smith Milway for the source article in the April 10 issue of the Needham [Massachusetts] Times.

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