Cancer survivor to lead Multiple Myeloma March

Told 11 years ago she had just six months to live, Eva Patten has defied the odds.

In 2008, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood-born cancer that strikes the kidneys and bone marrow.

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A day after chemotherapy was used to eliminate her bone marrow, Patten was given a stem cell transplant. Despite the effort, her condition worsened. Patten was placed in palliative care and told she had just six months to live.

Just 41 years old at the time, Patten said the news was "pretty devastating."

"My kids were in their early, early 20s and my daughter had just graduated from nursing school actually," said the mother of two and grandmother of three. "And yeah, I was kind of like, 'I have a lot of living left to do.'"

But seemingly in the nick of time, Patten learned a potentially breakthrough treatment had come available in the form of a regimen of trial drugs. With nothing left to lose, she became an "unofficial guinea pig."

It was a step Patten has not regretted taking.

"I've been given 11 more years of life that I didn't think I was going to have," she said. "And if this research wasn't out there and constantly being put to use, I would not be here."

Supporting that research is what the Multiple Myeloma March is all about. Set for this Saturday at the Otway Nordic Centre, 9 a.m. start, the aim of the five-kilometre walk or run is to raise $10,000 locally.

Surrounded by a team of family and friends known as "Strength in Numbers," Patten will be there.

Prior to coming down with the disease, Patten ran half-marathons and remains as active as she can. Although she brought up the rear, she recently participated in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day 200-kilometre cycle through the Lower Mainland, and has been a regular at the Relay for Life. She has also gone bungee jumping and skydiving.

"I didn't fight this hard to be alive to be a couch potato," Patten quipped.

That said, the cancer has taken its toll. Along with myeloma, she also suffers from amyloidosis, another type of blood-born cancer that has struck a wider range of her organs, including her heart.

As much as she would like to, Patten has been unable to work. She's also suffered wrist and hip fractures due to weakening of her bones but noted she has avoided the trouble with her spine that others with myeloma have had.

"It's not a cancer that's kind, that's for sure," said Patten.

But she has continued to go through a variety of regimens and continues to fight the fight.

For Dr. Heather Sutherland, principal investigator at the Vancouver General Hospital, success stories like Patten's have made her work worthwhile. Thanks to major strides, she said life expectancies have more than doubled over the last 15 years and remain on an upward trend.

"For the first time, we can actually say that we're getting closer to finding a cure. Investing in research is critical, which is why raising funds is more important than ever," Sutherland said.

To donate, go to myelomamarch.ca.

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