I don’t believe anyone anticipated the amount of snow that fell on Atlanta over the last Friday. We didn’t expect it, and we weren’t particularly prepared for it. But we were flexible! Our team of support group leaders (patients and care partners) are accustomed to being flexible, adjusting as and when necessary. This is second nature to us. We do what we have to do to make the situation work. For us, it’s the result of living (or loving someone) with myeloma.

ASH organizers posted a message advising conference participants to use best judgement when navigating transport to scheduled sessions. They made oral presentations during the early morning hours available by recorded video. Sessions weren’t canceled or rescheduled, instead a back-up plan was offered for those who the scheduled plan would not be an ideal option.

The snow at the start of ASH17 was a reminder that things don’t always go as planned or according to schedule. This is much like my journey with myeloma. The snow has since stopped and has begun to melt. Atlanta is fully functional, congested traffic has resumed, and ASH hasn’t missed a beat.

The dedication and aggressive approach to myeloma therapy is palpable among those delivering oral and poster presentations, as well as the 1000+ participants in attendance at International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) Satellite Symposium. The symposium, led by Brian G.M. Durie presented a scaffolding case study that addressed critical scenarios.

  1. Accurately Diagnosing MM: When Should Systemic Myeloma Treatment Be Initiated? (Dr. Bruno Paiva);
  2. Individualized Approaches to Treatment Selection for Induction Therapy, Transplant, Consolidation, and Maintenance: The Role of MRD in Monitoring (Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar);
  3. Therapeutic Strategies After First Relapse Following Initial Therapy (Dr. Philippe Moreau);
  4. Therapeutic Strategies After First Relapse Following Initial Therapy (Dr. Jesús San Miguel); and
  5. Current and Future Options for Therapy in Patients with Late Relapse (Dr. Brian G.M. Durie).

“Getting Clear Answers to Complex Treatment Challenges in Multiple Myeloma” was a fitting title to address these questions.

The esteemed presenters offered evidence-based and scientific protocols for the crowd of eager providers in the room. However, Dr. S. Vincent Rajkumar also suggested in his response a few principles to consider when deciding treatment of myeloma. He noted the importance of considering cost, quality of life, convenience, and to know when to break the rules. On the surface, these principles may appear less significant than scientific points. As a patient, I find them to be critical and essential principles. They speak volumes to me, suggesting the importance of considering how myeloma intersects with the human aspect of my care. Most importantly, knowing when to break the rules is similar to knowing when to be flexible. Without the scientific, evidence-based protocols, we would not experience the amazing advances in treatment and care; yet, without care to the human nature of our individual needs and difference, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy these treatment advances. I am grateful to the brilliant minds in myeloma for recognizing that as well.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the coming days at ASH.