The city this week honored a local woman’s who’s living with an incurable type of blood cancer.
March is national Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month and the city took the opportunity to honor Amy Ward Garofalo, who’s in remission from the disease, which affects plasma cells in the bone.
Mayor Daniel Drew presented a proclamation to Ward, who works as a transcription coordinator at Middlesex Hospital at a ceremony Thursday at city hallGarofalo’s parents, Bill and Margaret Ward, joined in the ceremony.
“Everybody confuses myeloma with melanoma,” said Garofalo, explaining the origins of Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month.
While both are forms of cancer, melanoma attacks the skin, while myeloma zeroes in on plasma cells.
Garofalo, who has two teen boys and lives with her husband Michael of 23 years in Middletown, does not fit the profile of a typical multiple myeloma patient. Most often, she said, the disease affects men in their late 60s and into their 70s, and it disproportionately afflicts black men.
Garofalo was diagnosed in April 2011. After a year of chemotherapy, she underwent a stem cell transplant in April 2012. She was celebrating the anniversary of the transplant at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston last April when she and her family were nearly killed in a bomb blast during the Boston Marathon.
The family was visiting the city for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation Boston Marathon Watch Party, a fundraiser for cancer patients who have difficulty paying their treatment bills.
They were waiting for a friend who was running the marathon and saw on an iPhone athlete-tracking application that he was behind schedule, so they left their spot on the course to wait inside a restaurant.
Just five minutes before the blast, Michael and his son Jakob were outside on the patio of the Forum restaurant on Boylston Street, leaning on the mailbox where Dzokhar Tsaranev allegedly placed the backpack containing the second pressure cooker bomb.
One of the two homemade bombs that tore apart the race course detonated right where they had been watching, Garofalo said. “If we hadn’t moved, we would have been right on top of it.”
Drew said that, between living with multiple myeloma and being injured in an attack that rocked the world, Garofalo had been both tremendously lucky and tremendously unlucky.
Garofalo said she is living with a “VGR” — or “very good response” — prognosis after a stem-cell transplant to treat the disease. She still goes for biweekly maintenance chemotherapy treatment and occasional boosters to strengthen her bones. “I’m not in complete remission,” she said, but “I’ll take it.”
By Alex Gecan, The Middletown Press