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My name is Colin.
For the past eight years I have lived with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that in my case is incurable. It started with a routine blood test. At first, they said it was ‘smouldering’ (sounds sexier than it is, believe me), but little did I know at the time the gruelling journey that was ahead of me.
In 2019, three years after my initial diagnosis, the disease really kicked off and I had a stem cell transplant, standard first-line treatment for multiple myeloma.
This debilitating regime involved months of heavy-duty chemo and a procedure to extract and replace cancerous cells with cancer free ones. Some fortunate multiple myeloma sufferers get long term ‘remission’ following these procedures but all I got was a lengthy stay in hospital with double pneumonia, lung abscesses and a few scary days in intensive care.
And almost no remission.
My haematologist had a few other treatments up his sleeve, but the multiple myeloma stubbornly refused to respond to whatever we threw at it. We were starting to run out of options and I was not ready to leave my family behind.
We’ve learnt a lot on our cancer journeys (Paula, my wife, also had cancer in 2017 – she was jealous of the attention I was getting). We learnt that the standard and somewhat barbaric approach of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy – aka cut, poison and burn – is the go-to treatment for most cancers.
We also learned that New Zealand has fewer funded cancer treatments than other comparable countries.
Some terminally-ill blood cancer patients who run out of treatment options here look at going overseas. But, unless you have a spare million dollars, forget it.
In 2021 my luck turned – my doctor was able to
secure ‘compassionate access’ to a drug which is not
funded in New Zealand. And so far, so good…
All things considered, I got lucky. But what about all those other New Zealanders, who don’t have access to these kinds of treatments? Should we not all have the same opportunities?
The Malaghan Institute is committed to finding better treatments for disease through their research into the immune system. And just as importantly, they’re committed to making these treatments accessible to all New Zealanders.
But they can’t do this alone.
By supporting their research, you are giving hope to people like me, now and into the future, that they will have the best chance available to fight their disease.
When I heard the Malaghan Institute had finished the first phase of their CAR T-cell therapy trial and had set their sights on making this potentially life-saving therapy a standard of care within the next few years, I knew I had to do all I could to support them. And I hope I inspire you to do the same. This is not just about surviving cancer, but about giving people better treatment options.
My son lost his grandma to myeloma and my daughters never met her. I have three wonderful grandchildren and if we can increase the range of treatments available in New Zealand, then I hope to be around in their lives when they grow up. The new treatments that the scientists at the Malaghan are researching means people like me, now and in the future, can have more time with our children, with our grandchildren, with our families.
We all have a part to play in ensuring that al New Zealanders have access to better, gentler treatments for disease – now more than ever. Please, show your support today and give hope to those living with disease. A better future starts with us all.