NEW YORK & PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MY LIFE IS WORTH IT (MLIWI), a non-profit patient advocacy organization, says Don Wright represents a story of incredible achievement – personal and medical. He was diagnosed with the blood cancer multiple myeloma in 2003 and given less than five years to live. Myeloma affects cells in the bone marrow and cannot be cured. But for many patients it can be managed with modern medicines. Now, 13 years after he found out he had myeloma, Don Wright is about to run his 100th marathon with cancer, while on treatment, and he’s 75-years old!
“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” says Don. “We started out with one marathon and then another and it turned out to be fun so we kept going. We completed at least one marathon in all 50 states and then set a goal of 100 marathons, and here we are.”
Don credits a pill he took that was so new it was still in a clinical trial when he started taking it. It helped keep his cancer in check while he remained free to race around the US and into Canada.
Says Don, “It’s not your grandfather’s chemotherapy. I didn’t lose my hair and I didn’t lose my lunch.”
But most insurance policies make patients pay more out-of-pocket for pills as opposed to getting a needle in their arm, so Don also became an advocate for equal insurance reimbursement for all cancer treatments, no matter how they’re delivered.
“That’s why MY LIFE IS WORTH IT was formed, to give patients a voice in fighting for medical innovation, access to treatments, and reasonable co-pays,” says MLIWI co-founder, former Major League Baseball pitcher and fellow myeloma patient Bob Tufts.
But after seven years the cancer began to flare up, so Don tried several new therapies. Eventually he and his doctors decided to go back to his pill, but this time adding a second treatment to the regimen that was so new, it wasn’t even a gleam in a researcher’s eye back when Don was diagnosed.
“The fact Don is living such an active and fulfilling life all these years after his diagnosis demonstrates the promise of cancer research,” said Christopher Hansen, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We admire Don’s personal achievement and appreciate his commitment to raising awareness about the important role research plays in reducing suffering and deaths from this disease.”
Don’s 100th marathon will be the Philadelphia Marathon, Nov 20th (www.philadelphiamarathon.com). Ardis Wright, his loving wife of 53 years, and their adult daughter Sarah travel with Don and often run half-marathons themselves.
“Don may be the one getting the treatment, but his whole family, his colleagues and his community benefit as well,” says Ardis Wright. “We recently sold one house and bought another. Don even started working again part time as an attorney. My own father died five years after he was diagnosed with a blood cancer. I see first-hand the difference a generation of research and development can make.”
Bob Tufts adds: “Running marathons is an impressive way of showing that with modern medicine many patients can go back to work, take care of their families, pay their insurance premiums and pay taxes. I was diagnosed with myeloma in 2009 and like Don, modern treatments allow me to work full time as a college professor.”
Don wraps it up this way, “When I head toward the finish line in Philadelphia, I’ll be thinking of all those cancer patients still in need of more research and newer treatments. Just like running marathons, we can’t hit the wall; we’ve got to keep pushing medicine forward.”