Rachel Duffy, Rose Of Tralee, with Andrina Fitzgerald and Mary Kelly, both of whom took part in a charity cycle for Multiple Myeloma Ireland last weekend. They are pictured in Rosemount prior to the cycle. Photo: Paul Molloy.

Local Multiple Myeloma group raising awareness of disease

Multiple Myeloma Ireland and Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, are working together to raise awareness of the disease in the Midlands.

About 2,000 patients are living with Multiple Myeloma nationally and 130 patients are currently being treated in the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore.

All patients who receive treatment at the hospital in Tullamore will receive combination treatment which includes steroids, chemotherapy, drugs and targeted therapies. Treatment is designed for each patient's individual needs. Patients with Multiple Myeloma can receive all treatments in Tullamore except for bone marrow transplants which are carried out at St James' Hospital in Dublin.

Treatments have significantly improved in the past 20 years with recent advancements in technology and many treatments can be affective in putting the disease into remission as a result.

At the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore they also provide support in terms of minimising complications and psycho-social support.

Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Haematology at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore Midlands Hospital Tullamore, Mary Kelly runs the first and longest running support group for people living with Multiple Myeloma in Ireland, which is based in the Dóchas Centre in Tullamore. It provides support and information for those with the disease. The group developed a podcast during lockdown called 'Living with Myleoma' which has been nominated for a Bullseye award in the Irish Podcast Awards.

Ms Kelly said: "A diagnosis of myeloma is frightening but there are great supports from the hospital and Multiple Myeloma Ireland. Patients can have a good quality of life."

Dr Gerard Crotty, Consultant Haematologist at Midlands Regional Hospital commented: "The outlook for patients with Multiple Myeloma has improved significantly over the past 20 years. The support and research is ongoing and the work of Multiple Myeloma Ireland is very valuable in supporting this."

Multiple Myeloma Ireland runs patient and family information days and held a cycling event last weekend to raise money toward more research.

The Wild Myeloma Way Cycle took place last Friday and Saturday to raise awareness of the disease and to fundraise further. On Friday the participants cycled from Limerick Hospital to Spanish Point via the Cliffs of Moher and on Saturday they travelled from Spanish Point back to Limerick, a journey of 220km in total.

The family members of many patients in the midlands took part including Andrina Fitzgerald and Kevin O'Regan.

Multiple Myeloma is the second most common blood cancer. The following anagram is used to highlight the symptoms – CRABI for high calcium, kidney damage, anaemia, bone disease and recurrent infections. The majority of patients with Multiple Myeloma will require treatment. The cancer of the bone marrow is found in the spongy material of the bones or plasma cells where blood cells are made.

The role of the plasma cells is to fight infection. The plasma cells can become uncontrolled, multiply and release an antibody called paraprotein. It's different to other cancers as it affects multiple parts of the body such as the bones and kidneys. Multiple Myeloma can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are very vague. Patients normally present with bone pain, fatigue and recurrent infections. Fractures and anaemia which is a low blood count are also symptoms.

Multiple Myeloma is diagnosed by consultant haematologists through a combination of investigations such as blood tests and bone marrow tests. This is all managed by the haematology department at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore.