A Vancouver Island woman diagnosed with blood cancer will walk in the Vancouver Island Multiple Myeloma March in Nanaimo next month to fundraise for a cure and to improve access to treatments.
Elizabeth Kalbfleisch, a Qualicum Beach mother of two daughters, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma at the age of 43 after she experienced symptoms that became severe enough that she became too weak to walk, according to a news release.
Like many people, Kalbfleisch had never heard of multiple myeloma, despite it being the second most common form of blood cancer.
She found herself alone in Vancouver for five weeks, undergoing physically and emotionally demanding treatments.
“It felt surreal,” Kalbfleisch said. “I had never left my daughters and husband alone for such a long time. I was worried about how they would handle my sudden absence and what the implications were for my future.”
In September 2021, she began receiving chemotherapy treatments to prepare her for a stem cell transplant, a procedure that is often effective in controlling myeloma.
She underwent the transplant in March 2022 but sadly the myeloma returned after six months, and she started a new treatment regimen that she is still on today.
The protocol involves regular immunotherapy injections at the Nanaimo cancer clinic, daily chemotherapy and weekly steroids at home. Kalbfleisch is hopeful that this treatment plan will keep her myeloma at bay.
Today, she is feeling stronger. She has eased into a comfortable routine that has given her a sense of normalcy and hope.
“I am so grateful to have my family, especially my husband Chris and my children by my side,” she said. “I could not survive the treatments and daily challenges without them,” she said.
Kalbfleisch is also thankful for the local myeloma support group, which have helped her and her family cope with living with myeloma.
She and her family and friend will try to raise awareness and funds at the 6th annual Vancouver Island Multiple Myeloma March, taking place on Sept. 4 at 9 a.m., at the Lions Pavilion in Maffeo Sutton Park in Nanaimo.
The Vancouver Island event has set a financial goal at $30,000.