When Dawn Toimil’s doctor sent her for pre-op clearance for foot surgery, she figured it was a routine test. Instead, he discovered an abnormality in her blood work and sent her for more tests, including a bone marrow biopsy.
The results were shocking: smoldering multiple myeloma (the presence of abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow). Toimil was floored.
“I was sad when I was told the diagnosis, but have learned that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, and that many scientific inroads have been made. The future is hopeful that this can be a chronic disease,” the mother of two says about her February 2010 diagnosis. “Thankfully, the disease has not progressed to the point requiring aggressive treatment.”
The St. Andrews and University of Florida grad is no stranger to misfortune: She underwent surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer in 1999.
So this time around, she was even more determined to get healthy. She discovered everything she could about multiple myeloma — and in the process helped start a local support group.
The Boca Raton Multiple Myeloma Support Group, which held its first meeting in November 2010, began with eight patients and caregivers and now has 74 people on its email list.
“The group is a forum for patients, their friends and caregivers to exchange information and form a community with others experiencing similar circumstances,” says the Boca Raton resident, noting the group has something in common with newsman Tom Brokaw, who recently divulged he has the disease.
“People often confuse myeloma with melanoma, but they are two entirely different diseases. Myeloma is still considered incurable, but researchers are aiming to make it a chronic disease, much like diabetes,” she said.
“It is important to get the word out so those affected could get diagnosed at an earlier stage of the disease. We are also attempting to familiarize medical practitioners with myeloma awareness, so it can be tested for whenever someone presents with bone pain, especially in the back, anemia or abnormal calcium/creatine/renal levels.”
Last month, the group got proclamations from several local cities — including Ocean Ridge — declaring March Multiple Myeloma Month.
While Toimil is doing her part to spread the word, she’s also busy helping her husband, Al, in their business, Jet Parts Inc., and renovating a house they bought in Ocean Ridge.
“With an empty nest looming, we wanted to try living closer to the water and purchased our home in Ocean Ridge in November. We love the quaintness and solitude of Ocean Ridge and old A1A,” says Toimil, who worked as a marketing analyst at Southern Bell, AT&T and WorldCom/MCI.
She has another milestone to mark this year: She and her husband will be celebrating their 30th anniversary. Son Brett is in Georgetown Medical School while Ryan attends Dartmouth College and is on the baseball team.
“I feel blessed to have seen my boys reach young adulthood. My goal then, as it is now, is to see their children reach young adulthood,” she emphasizes. “I hope others facing health obstacles can make the most of every day, after the normal phase of anger and grief, and find joy and happiness with their lives.”
The Boca Raton Multiple Myeloma Support Group meets from 6:30-8:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month at the community center of Patch Reef Park in Boca Raton.
by Linda Hasse | Coastal Star