Nova Scotia

Despite COVID-19 limitations, fundraiser for multiple myeloma finds a way

Small but mighty groups of those with multiple myeloma and their loved ones hit the streets of Halifax and beyond to raise awareness and funds this weekend, together but apart due to the ongoing pandemic.

'We still had that sense of community happening out there anyway'

Julie Salsman, right, and her daughter, Heather, walked through Cole Harbour on Saturday in the 10th annual Leo Senz Memorial Walk for Multiple Myeloma. (Julie Salsman)

Small but mighty groups of those with multiple myeloma along with their loved ones hit the streets of Halifax and beyond this weekend to raise awareness and funds.

They were together, but apart, due to the ongoing pandemic.

Julie Salsman walked through her Cole Harbour neighbourhood with her daughters, grandson and other family and friends by her side.

In its 10th year, the Leo Senz Memorial Walk for Multiple Myeloma officially took place on Sunday, although Salsman got a head start and went on Saturday.

People held individual walks

Although they didn't gather in one place, participants were encouraged to walk in their own neighbourhoods at the same time. That would allow for physical distancing.

Salsman also heard of friends in the Annapolis Valley taking part.

"It was just great knowing that we still had that sense of community happening out there anyway," Salsman said.

Salsman organized Halifax's first Multiple Myeloma March in 2010.

Beginning in 2011, she then co-led the march with Senz, who was also diagnosed with the disease. Since his death in 2014, Salsman has co-led the event with Senz's son, Michael, in honour of his late father.

Multiple myeloma, also known as myeloma, is the second most common form of blood cancer. It affects a type of immune cell called the plasma cell, found in the bone marrow. 

According to a release, nine Canadians are diagnosed every day. While there is no cure, people with myeloma are living longer and healthier lives thanks to recent treatment developments.

Salsman is one of those people who knows how vital this research is.

When she was diagnosed in 2008, Salsman said she was given no more than five years to live.

Julie Salsman, centre, stands with her family and supporters during their walk in Cole Harbour in support of the Leo Senz Memorial Walk for Multiple Myeloma. (Julie Salsman)

Instead, her myeloma lay dormant for years. It was only in the past few months when her condition started to change and Salsman was told her disease is now considered active.

She isn't going through treatment yet because she doesn't have any bone or organ involvement. Salsman will watch and wait until her doctors make a determination.

"We hope with more research that this will move from an incurable cancer to a chronic disease," she said.

But the fundraising hill is an especially steep one to climb this year with no main in-person walk, Salsman said, where most of their donations are made.

Donations much lower than last year

As of Sunday, the Halifax marchers had raised just over $1,000 of their $16,000 goal that they had reached last year.

Many non-profits are in the same situation, but Salsman is hoping that continuing to raise awareness might result in a fundraising boost after this weekend for those who might not have known about the walk.

Most importantly, Salsman said although a diagnosis of multiple myeloma is scary, there is hope out there as well as a local support group.

"You're not alone," she said.

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