Dame Kelly Holmes: spreading awareness for myeloma
Haematology Dame Kelly Holmes, the UK's greatest ever female Olympian, has a personal reason for spreading myeloma awareness.
Visit Kelly's Virgin Money donation page raising for Myeloma UK here.
“My mother, Pamela, was diagnosed with myeloma in 2015,” she says.
"It is not a well-known form of cancer, and our family knew little about it.”
My mother did not suspect it. “She had been suffering back pain and then two cracked ribs. A bone biopsy showed that her paraprotein levels were high, which can be an important sign of myeloma,” Dame Kelly says.
“It was a huge shock that she was ill and that she had myeloma."
She praises her mother's medical team, adding: 'Everyone with myeloma responds to different drugs differently, so her doctors are working hard to find out which drugs suit her best. She has had two different types of treatment cycles of chemotherapy and steroids. She had responded at the beginning, but unfortunately the myeloma has come back, so more treatment must be tried.
Spreading the word
Dame Kelly believes that telling the human stories behind myeloma helps raise awareness, and adds: “Myeloma does not have the word ‘cancer’ in its name, so people do not realise what it is. We must get the word out to increase the rate of early diagnosis.
“With the right treatment, people with myeloma can live longer than they used to."
"I've met some who have lived with it for a long time, which always brought hope to my family.”
Dame Kelly ran the 2016 London marathon for Myeloma UK and raises awareness and funds at her chain of coffee houses, called Café 1809 after her Athens Olympics running number. She says: “We must get the myeloma message out.”
Historically, 24-hour urine collections were used to detect an abnormal protein (paraprotein) in patients with suspected myeloma. Such tests are inconvenient and embarrassing, and thus were often not completed, resulting in the potential for missed/delayed diagnosis.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) now recommends blood tests (serum free light chain analysis and electrophoresis) to look for the presence of paraproteins. This optimised protocol may result in earlier myeloma diagnosis and reduced complications.
The Freelite® serum free light chain test (Binding Site Group Ltd) is also recommended by International Myeloma Working Group guidelines for the investigation and management of myeloma.