One Kelowna resident with incurable cancer is helping researchers get one step closer to finding a cure at the fifth annual Kelowna Multiple Myeloma March.
Erwin Malzer has always enjoyed travelling and spending time outdoors cycling with his wife Rose. In late 2016, Malzer sensed something was wrong when he began experiencing excruciating back pain. Initially, he attributed the pain to shovelling snow. However, when the pain persisted and became unbearable, Malzer went to the emergency department.
After a series of tests, doctors discovered a fractured vertebra. Further investigation and a bone marrow biopsy finally revealed that Malzer had multiple myeloma, a little-known and incurable cancer of the plasma cells. He was 69 years old at the time.
“It got to the point where I literally couldn’t move. I couldn’t lie down or get up without experiencing massive back pain,” Erwin recalls.
“It was like someone had a blowtorch to my back. The doctor didn’t understand how I was able to withstand it.”
Shortly after his diagnosis, Malzer was told he only had about six months to live. He received radiation treatment before undergoing chemotherapy and then a stem cell transplant in June 2017. Nearly four years later, Malzer has far exceeded his doctor’s expectations, his condition is stable and his cancer is now in remission.
Although Malzer’s life has changed drastically, he is extremely thankful to still be alive. He credits this to the life-saving treatments that he had access to and the love and support he received from his wife, three adult children, and two grandchildren.
“Rose is my saviour. I don’t think I could have managed without her,” said Malzer.
As a former board chair and corporate director of Interior Health, Malzer is once again looking to the future. He continues to advocate for the transformation of the healthcare system. His patient journey has given him an added perspective and insight into where opportunities for improvement exist.
“Most people are familiar with other types of blood cancers, but this isn’t the case for myeloma,” said Malzer. “That’s why it’s so important to get the word out.”
Over the past four years, Malzer has seen, first-hand, the life-changing impact that advances in myeloma research is having on the lives of those living with this incurable cancer.
That’s why he and his family are more intent than ever to raise as much awareness and funds for myeloma as they can, and will be participating in the 5th annual Kelowna Multiple Myeloma March on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 11 a.m.
This year’s march has been modified to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In compliance with physical distancing measures, participants are encouraged to hold their own walk in their neighbourhood at the same time as the regularly scheduled March on Sept. 12. Malzer and his fellow Kelowna marchers have set their fundraising goal at $5,000 to help further critical research for this deadly blood cancer that affects nine new Canadians every day.
“While this year’s March will undoubtedly be different because of the pandemic, it’s crucial to stay positive,” said Martine Elias, executive director of Myeloma Canada.
Fundraising has been a challenge for several organizations this year, said Elias, but the work still needs to be done to improve the lives of Canadians impacted by myeloma.
“More than ever, we’re counting on our supporters to help us achieve our goal of $650,000. Canadians impacted by this incurable cancer are depending on us.”
The Multiple Myeloma March is Myeloma Canada’s main fundraiser, driven to improve the lives of those impacted by myeloma and to support research toward finding a cure. This is year 12 for the five-kilometre walk/run on a national level.
Kelowna is one of a record 33 communities taking place in this year’s march.