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Living with Multiple Myeloma: Phil's Journey
Multiple Myeloma is an incurable blood cancer, but it is possible to live well – even thrive – with MM.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Living with multiple myeloma can be a challenging journey. Phil Harbridge, a retired pastor, teacher and avid runner in British Columbia, knows this all too well. In 2019, at the age of 57, Phil started experiencing unusual fatigue and shortness of breath during his runs. Concerned about his health, he visited his doctor, who discovered he was anemic and prescribed iron pills. However, a fractured rib during a routine run led to further tests and a referral to a hematologist.

"My appointment with the local hematologist was scheduled for the end of the week, but by the time I got home, I had a call from a hematologist's office at the Vancouver General Hospital telling me they would see me the next day.” Phil knew it must be serious, but he was not expecting cancer. After more tests, including a bone marrow biopsy, the diagnosis was confirmed: multiple myeloma.

"When I heard the word ‘cancer’, I almost passed out. I was paralyzed by shock. I felt like the doctor was talking to someone else. I kept thinking, I'm fit. How can this be happening?" Phil shares. Thankfully, his wife and eldest daughter accompanied him to the appointment, providing invaluable support. "It was very helpful to have someone with me who could think more clearly and ask questions."

Following his diagnosis, Phil underwent chemotherapy and eventually a stem cell transplant. For the past five years, he has been on maintenance chemotherapy, which has allowed him to live well and continue pursuing his passion for running. However, like many multiple myeloma patients, Phil has experienced a relapse. He will soon embark on a new line of therapy.

Staying Motivated
"The good news is I have therapeutic options available to me. It's a relief to see how far therapies have come and to know that research is ongoing," Phil says. He acknowledges there is no cure for multiple myeloma, but firmly believes it is possible to live with the disease - and even thrive. "For me, cancer is like running a marathon. Sure, it’s more debilitating, but no less conquerable. Although everyone’s case is unique, you may have to make some adjustments, but you can have a good life, even a very full life."
Phil takes immense pride in his role as a father and grandfather. With two daughters, a granddaughter, and another grandchild on the way, family remains a constant source of joy and inspiration in his life.

Finding Support
He acknowledges the importance of family, friends and having a strong support network. He recalls that when he was first diagnosed, a friend flew in from Colorado to be with him for his treatments. “Instead of saying: ‘I am here for you,’ my friend said: ‘Here I am for you’.” This subtle but powerful difference made a lasting impression on Phil. "Having someone just show up and be there with you can be key to helping you cope with the emotional and mental toll of living with cancer.” In addition, Phil draws strength from his faith, meditation, and prayer.

The Power of Goal Setting
Phil's passion for running started long before his cancer diagnosis. Despite his battle with multiple myeloma, Phil continues to lead an active life, sharing his passion for running with others, as well as swimming, cycling and hiking. He also believes in the power of goal setting. "When I turned 50, I decided to run five marathons that year. One marathon for every decade of life lived! And then when I turned 60, as a cancer patient, instead of running 6 full marathons, I decided to run 12 half marathons. One race a month. It is such a feeling of accomplishment to be able to set a goal for yourself and see it through." He believes that setting and achieving goals can bring fulfillment to anyone's life. "What's important is to get out there. Overcome your inertia and give something a try."

At Pfizer, we are dedicated to developing innovative therapies for diseases, such as multiple myeloma, while listening and learning from the patient perspective to deliver outcomes that matter most to them and those involved in their care. For more information, tools and support resources, please visit Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those living with multiple myeloma.

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