Priya Menon Priya Menon Scientific Media Editor at Curetalk

CureTalk Interviews, Keith Virgin, Multiple Myeloma Survivor and Blogger

Keith Virgin

Keith Virgin

Keith Virgin is a 50 yr old lawyer/Public Defender in Kentucky. He was diagnosed with MGUS/ Smoldering Myeloma in 2011 and remains stable. Keith is being treated at the UAMS-Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy in Little Rock Ark. Keith chronicles his myeloma journey in his blog, Keith’s Myeloma Blog, in Myeloma Beacon.

Keith is a wonderful person and was a panelist at the recently held Myeloma Cure Panel which had Dr. Hari Parameswaran from Medical College of Wisconsin in conversation with the panelists on myeloma relapse and treatment.

Let us read Keith’s myeloma story…

Me: Please share your myeloma story with us.

Keith: Thank you for allowing me to share my story, which is really my family’s story.

My father, was diagnosed with Stage III Multiple Myeloma in 1993, he had many fractures and had hypocalcaemia in his blood. The local oncologist in Ashland Kentucky told us, “your father has 13 months to live.” He was off by one month. These were the “old days” for Myeloma, Dad was treated by an oncologist who had many other patients with all kinds of cancer besides Myeloma, and Dad had a physician probably not skilled in Myeloma? But, we, none of us in the family knew what this cancer was exactly.

My father died in 1994, my brother Marvin was tested for M-protein/ Serum protein electrophoresis elevation each year from 1993 until he was diagnosed with MM stage III in 2002.He had this test annually, but his MM was discovered after broken vertebrae in 2002 when he missed a stair step in his office! He was diagnosed and went to UAMS for treatment 2 months later….

I do believe he wished in hindsight he had went earlier to UAMS and that he had been more vigilant. My brother’s early treatment involved radiation which when he got to Little Rock he was informed had destroyed a part of his bone marrow production for an Autologous stem cell transplant from his own stem cells.

Me: Your brother achieved partial remission following Total therapy at UAMS. What is your opinion on Total therapy for multiple myeloma?

Keith: I sincerely believe that Total Therapy at UAMS gave my brother 5 years he would not have had otherwise. Dr. Tricot at UAMS treated him with two transplants and gave him all they had in Therapy. He was able to see his daughter, my niece, get married and his son, my nephew have more teenage years than he would without Total Therapy.

Me: Your father, your brother, and now you… have you talked about genetic link and myeloma with your doctor. What are your thoughts on this?

Keith: With both my Father and Brother having MM, the genetic link appears at first blush clear. But, I have inquired with UAMS and my own layman’s investigation have demonstrated a more powerful link to environmental factors perhaps involving my Dad’s WWII service. During the Second War, soldiers were sprayed with DDT and other insecticides. Following the war Dad farmed burley tobacco and corn using herbicides extensively.

My brother and I helped in the farming but the “inherited” exposure and the synergy of all the compounds is yet an unknown and unexplored in medical research.

Me: Your father and brother passed away due to multiple myeloma, but you have had an early diagnosis. Do you think an early diagnosis and surveillance can help in having more control over the disease?

Keith:  It is my hope, that medical science and early detection will lead to long-term therapeutic treatment for this disease and that Myeloma Research and Treatment through the UAMS Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy may result in MM someday being a chronic condition treatable but not terminable.

 

Thank you, Keith. It was a pleasure to connect with you. 

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