When Pat Conley’s cancer returned, she knew her sister, Juanita Moore would be there to help her fight it again.
“She's been here for two months already from Indiana and I can't get here to go home,” she said.
After 13 years in remission, the multiple myeloma is back.
“I was told from the very beginning that it would be back. There is no cure for multiple myeloma,” Conley said.
Multiple myeloma is a rare blood cancer that affects plasma cells – more than 10,000 people die from the disease each year.
Blacks are twice as likely to be diagnosed than whites – but many have never heard of it until they contract it – which is why Conley is part of an 18-month pilot program to educate her community.
The Myeloma Link program is closing that gap, visiting nearly 30 black churches and community organizations throughout Atlanta and providing information about access to care and clinical trials.
The program is run through The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Georgia Chapter.
Community outreach coordinator Mel Mann says the goal is not only to educate, but let people know there's help available.
“The reception has been very, very good. Because when people here these symptoms such as back pain, fatigue, infection, then they can kind of think about these things,” Mann said.
Conley is undergoing chemo and is awaiting a stem cell transplant.
She relies on support from her sister and her children, along with her support group.
“I love that group. We're always there to help each other,” Conley said. “Just, even if it's just to go to the grocery store.”
Through Myeloma Link patients are also connected to support groups and even financial assistance.
“The hardest part of any experience you go through is thinking that you're going through it by yourself,” said Conley. “And I never had to feel that way.”
The Myeloma Link pilot program ends June 30.
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