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'I knew I had to fight': Mom with incurable cancer taking steps to aid research

'When I was told I had myeloma, I was in utter shock (but) I knew I had to fight, for my daughters and for my husband,' says mother of two

Tanya Zigomanis knew something was wrong in early 2019 when she started feeling extreme fatigue along with an unexplained pain in her rib cage. 

An energetic young mother of two daughters, a wife, and a professional with a demanding career as an insurance defence litigator, Tanya was accustomed to a busy pace; she had always been, and considered herself, healthy and resilient. That’s why, when the pain continued to get worse, Tanya decided to consult her doctor. 

After undergoing a battery of tests, including a bone marrow biopsy, Tanya was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a little-known and incurable blood cancer of the plasma cells. She was just 37 years old.  

“When I was told I had myeloma, I was in utter shock. But the diagnosis provided me an odd sense of relief to finally know what was wrong,” Tanya recalls.  “I felt like I wanted to wake up from a nightmare, but doctors assured me they had a plan. I knew I had to fight, for my daughters and for my husband.”  

That’s exactly what Tanya has been doing. Within a year and a half of being diagnosed, she underwent four months of chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant in September 2019. 

While the transplant was not successful in putting Tanya into full remission, thankfully, her condition is stable. She is currently receiving maintenance therapy and is starting to see increasingly positive results.

Although Tanya and her family have had to adjust to a life with myeloma, Tanya is extremely thankful to be alive. “A lot of my strength comes from speaking to long-term surviving myeloma patients,” she says. “I know that I will eventually relapse. I have to be confident that there will be treatment options available to me when that time comes.”  

Tanya is looking to the future. She is grateful to watch her daughters, Samantha, 5, and Ella, 8, grow. Tanya is also hoping to return to work, part-time, in the future. In the meantime, she is eager to do what she can to help others living with this incurable disease.       

That’s why Tanya and her family are more intent than ever to raise awareness and funds for myeloma, and will be participating in Myeloma Canada’s 2nd annual Newmarket Multiple Myeloma March on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 9 a.m.  

This year’s Newmarket March has been modified to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In compliance with physical distancing measures, participants are encouraged to hold their own walk in their neighbourhood or community at the same time as the regularly scheduled March on Oct. 4. Tanya and her fellow Newmarket Marchers have set their goal to raise $50,000 to help further crucial research for this deadly blood cancer that affects nine new Canadians every day.

"Myeloma research has produced extremely promising results over the past two decades. The survival of patients diagnosed with myeloma is continuing to improve as many new families of treatments become available,” said Dr. Neil Berinstein, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and the Odette Sunnybrook Cancer Centre. “We can’t afford to let the current situation stop the progress we’ve made and put vulnerable people living with myeloma at risk, which is why it’s more critical than ever to invest in research and find a cure.”  

The Multiple Myeloma March, Myeloma Canada’s flagship fundraiser is now in its 12th year. This year, funds raised will go directly to support Myeloma Canada’s Myeloma Research Priority Setting Partnership (PSP), an important initiative that uses community input to identify and define future investments in myeloma research.

The annual five-kilometre event brings Canadian communities together to raise essential funds for research and to help improve the lives of all Canadians impacted by myeloma.  

Newmarket is one of a record 33 communities across the country to be included in this year’s Multiple Myeloma March. The national fundraising goal is set at $650,000. To learn more about how this event will be working, please click here.  

“While this year’s March will undoubtedly be different because of the pandemic, it’s important to stay positive,” says Martine Elias, executive director of Myeloma Canada. “Fundraising has taken a huge hit for many organizations. We need to do all we can to increase awareness and raise essential funds for research that will improve the lives of Canadians impacted by myeloma, and bring us closer to a cure.”

Martine added, “As we mark Myeloma Canada’s 15th anniversary, we celebrate the strength of our incredible community.  More than ever, we’re counting on our supporters to help us achieve our goal of $650,000. Canadians impacted by this incurable cancer are depending on us.”

 




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