Tiffany Williams [TW]: I was diagnosed in 2014, and I transplanted in 2015. And after I transplanted, I was feeling hopeless and lonely. Although I had a wonderful support system, I didn't have anyone who I felt connected to with multiple myeloma. That left me with a major feeling of despair. So I started searching for a support group, and there weren't any in my area. So I decided that I would start a support group.
Valarie Traynham [VT]: When I was first diagnosed, I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to tell anybody. I didn't know how to tell people. How were they going to react to it? I didn't want to get those pitiful looks from people and have those sad eyes staring at you all the time. So I was a little hesitant to share. But as I got further along my journey, I saw that that was weighing me down too much, it was something that I could not carry by myself. So the more I talked to people about it, the more I made them aware of what was going on; I felt a sense of relief to where it's, I'm not in this alone. And then when I found the support group, it really opened up things to where I realized that, hey, telling people about your journey — it gives you a renewed sense of hope.
TW: Hope has become my mantra since diagnosis.
TW: And I think that's important for all myeloma patients because, yeah, if you have that one shred of hope, it's something to fight for.
VT: My word is "resilience."
VT: Fighting through everything, beating the odds and not giving up and just keeping at it.
TW: One of the ways it's possible to have such a great support system is to be able to share your experience and your story because people don't know what we need, unless we tell them.
VT: Unless we tell them.
TW: And sometimes people think, well, you have hair, so you must not be on chemotherapy. So it’s a great opportunity to educate people about myeloma because the reality of living with myeloma is so different. We sound so hopeful, and I think we’re in a place of peace where we are living our best life.
VT: Yes, throughout this journey, the information that I have learned, it has empowered me; when I go to my doctor, to have a little bit more confidence to be able to ask the right questions and build a relationship with my care team — the doctors and the nurse practitioners. I feel more equipped to go into an appointment. A lot of times, patients go in and they're so intimidated because it's the doctor —
TW: It's the doctor.
VT: But that doctor is there for you. They're working to make you better. Sometimes you've got to be your own advocate, too. You've got to step up and ask some questions and seek some knowledge for yourself.
TW: The more we tell our story and the more we have a face and voice to cancer, and to stand up to cancer and to show that you can be a warrior, I think we start to break down some of those barriers.