In 2008, Alyssa Friedberg was a junior in college. She was about to leave for her study abroad program in London when she received a devastating phone call: her mom, Andrea, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer.
“I was so scared,” Alyssa says. “I didn’t know if I should still go on my study abroad trip, but the doctors assured my family and me that they would do everything they could for my mom.”
The doctors kept their promises. Andrea immediately underwent innovative treatments and procedures, including multiple stem cell transplants. And today, nearly 10 years later, Andrea is thriving despite her diagnosis, in part thanks to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF).
Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer and is currently incurable, but the MMRF has fueled more studies, initiated more trials, and developed more treatments than any other cancer research organization. In the time that it usually takes to release just one new drug, the MMRF has released 10 new drugs — and survival is three times longer than when the MMRF began. Today, the five-year survival rate for multiple myeloma is 47 percent, versus 31 percent in 1999.
When Claire Cosgrove learned of her dad’s multiple myeloma diagnosis in 2009, she felt scared and alone. But the MMRF quickly swooped in to assist her family in their time of need.
“In a time of profound uncertainty, fear, and stress, the MMRF community helped my family learn about the disease and access the best resources to help my dad begin his battle,” Claire says. “My family immediately felt the strong impact of its members’ solidarity and commitment to community.”
Michael Horwitz’s father, Bruce, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the summer of 2000 and was given a mere three years to live. Thanks in huge part to the MMRF, Bruce went on to fight the disease for 11 years.
“While he eventually passed from this terrible disease, my family and I are forever grateful for the support from the MMRF,” Michael says. “They played a large role in prolonging his life.”
Alyssa, Claire, and Michael were all searching for a way to give back to the MMRF and help other families affected by multiple myeloma. So recently, they became co-chairs of the MMRF Young Professionals Group of Chicago. On Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, the young professionals group will host its 4th Annual Mingle for Myeloma to benefit the MMRF.
This year’s fundraiser will be held at Savage Smyth from 7 to 11 p.m., and guests will enjoy passed appetizers, an open bar, live music from Pat McKillen, a silent auction, and more.
Plus, as is always the case with the MMRF, nearly 90 percent of funds raised will be donated to research and related programming. Past Mingle for Myeloma fundraisers have raised a combined $160,000 for the MMRF, and the young professionals group hopes to raise more money than ever before at their upcoming event.
Though it’s been almost a decade, Alyssa still vividly remembers the day she received the phone call about her mom’s diagnosis. However, thanks to the MMRF, she now chooses to look toward the future.
“We’re all happy to be able to help raise funds and awareness for multiple myeloma,” Alyssa says. “We’re hopeful that one day the funds our group continues to raise will help lead to a cure.”