February 1

Winslow man’s cancer has family stepping up in a big way

When Michael Poulin was diagnosed with smoldering multiple myeloma, his children took action and have not only raised thousands for research, but started a Maine myeloma charity.

By Jesse Scardina jscardina@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Climbing the 1,500-plus stairs of the Empire State Building was the least Nate Poulin could do.

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Contributed photoSTAIR MASTER: Nate Poulin runs in last year’s Empire State Building Run-Up, the annual climb up the Empire State Building’s 1,576 steps. Poulin will be running it again Wednesday to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, after his father, Michael Poulin of Winslow, was diagnosed with the incurable cancer.

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Contributed photoRUNNING TOGETHER: Michael Poulin, center, holds his granddaughter, Molly Magoun, next to his son and Molly’s uncle, Nate Poulin, at 2012’s Race for Myeloma 5K in Bangor. It was the first charity race that the Poulins ran. Nate, along with his sister and brother-in-law Katie and Andrew Magoun, would go on to raise more than $10,000 in 2013 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

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Myeloma charities

Since its start in 1998, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has raised more than $240 million to fund research for a cure for the deadly blood disease. The foundation is the largest private funder for myeloma research, directing more than 90 percent of its money toward research.

“We’re driving a lot of the search in expedited treatments for myeloma,” said Alicia O’Neill, the director of endurance events at MMRF.

To help support the cause, Andrew and Katie Magoun started a Maine group, ME Against Myeloma. All the money raised by the two through charity road races is funneled to MMRF.

“Sometimes, when people connect with us they do their own local outreach because they know if they can raise money, then we’re going to put it to work to keep their loved ones alive,” O’Neill said.

To get involved, visit the MMRF donation page. For more information on ME Against Myeloma, visit its Facebook page or donate here.

Same thing goes for Andrew and Katie Magoun, a government-employed father and stay-at-home-mother of two children, who moved their family to Portland, switching career roles in the process. The move was an easy decision.

What would be your response if your father had incurable cancer?

About two years ago, Michael Poulin, 56, of Winslow was diagnosed with smoldering multiple myeloma, an early detection of multiple myeloma, a rare form of an incurable cancer that affects the white blood cells, specifically in the bone marrow. The prognosis for those who have this type of cancer continues to improve, but best-case survival rate from the disease is five to six years.

His children responded to their dad’s illness by starting a local organization in Portland, ME Against Myeloma, raising thousands of dollars for myeloma research and awareness by running in several road races, including the Empire State Building Run-Up.

But the added benefit was it brought an already close family closer together.

Smacked with a bat

Lifelong residents of Winslow and high school sweethearts, Poulin and Kathy Poulin married and raised their two children, Nate and Katie, in Winslow.

By 2011, Nate was living in New York City with a job as a planning manager for an online men’s apparel store and Katie was busy raising a family in a suburb of Washington, D.C., and the Poulins were enjoying the peace in their Smiley Avenue home of more than 25 years.

But one thing always lingered on Poulin’s mind — his health.

“I’ve been concerned about cancer in my family. My family has a history of cancer,” Poulin said. “My grandmother, mother and her two sisters died of cancer. I had a brother who died of cancer, and another brother who had prostate cancer, but is in remission.”

Sitting in his living room, legs crossed, Poulin, 56, who has worked at the Office of the State Auditor for 34 years, looks healthy. He kept himself in good shape by going to the gym multiple times a week, and visited a doctor every six months to a year, just in case.

“I’ve always been concerned about my health. If there was something, I always wanted to detect it early,” Poulin said. “Years went by, and I never heard anything about any health issues.”

Then, a few years ago, Poulin was diagnosed with multiple cases of shingles, which he knew wasn’t normal. In October 2011, he received word from his doctor that his white blood cell count was low, and that additional testing was needed.

“I thought they’d find a reason my cell count was low and they’d give me a pill and it’d be OK,” Poulin said.

An initial blood test in 2011 at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta revealed some issues that needed more investigating, Poulin said.

A bone marrow biopsy was performed at the Alfond Center, and their next visit was to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for more opinions. When Michael and Kathy Poulin went to Boston for that visit in January 2012. The couple still were optimistic it could be something else.

“When we went to Dana Farber (Cancer Institute), I had the mindset of now we can find out what else is causing this,” Poulin said. “Then the doctor came in and said I had high-risk smoldering multiple myeloma.

“It was a big shock. Like someone taking a bat and smacking me.”

TELLING THE KIDS

From the time of the initial worry in October 2011 to the diagnosis in January, 2012, the Poulin family was busy. Besides orchestrating holiday travel plans, Katie, now Katie Magoun, and her husband, Andrew, were anticipating their second child, Wesley, right before Thanksgiving. Nate Poulin and his parents were flying down for the birth and the holiday. Between all the joy, the trip was filled with stress for Michael and Kathy.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans Kathy and Michael Poulin at their Winslow home recently. Michael was diagnosed with Myeloma, a rare blood disorder two years ago. Their son Nate will be climbing the stairs in the Empire State Building to raise money and awareness for the disease.

  


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