Thursday, April 24, 2014
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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.
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.
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.
“Given the time frame it took, from having the tests to going to Dana Farber, it was a roller coaster ride,” Kathy Poulin said. “It was up and down — don’t know if you have this, know you don’t have that.”
The angst was weighing on Michael Poulin.
“There was a lot of anxiety going through the procedures and getting diagnosed,” he said. “I remember in a matter of six weeks I lost 15 pounds from stress and the concern of having to tell the kids.”
Poulin waited until the night before everyone went home to tell the children. Although in November the diagnosis wasn’t official, he wanted the children to know what may lie ahead.
“It was presented to them that there was this possibility,” Poulin said. “There was an ongoing anxiety I was under about the possibility of having this disease.”
Kathy didn’t know he was going to tell the family.
“Michael hadn’t mentioned to me that he wanted to talk about the circumstances, because he wasn’t sure what it was at that point,” she said. “I was shocked, it was a quiet moment. Everyone was gathered together. It was a very joyous occasion we were at. They were very shocked that he held all that in during that time.”
Katie Magoun, 32, knew something was off about her father that week, but, having given birth just days earlier, her focus was elsewhere.
“In retrospect, I noticed some things were a little different, my dad wasn’t sleeping well,” she said.
Nate Poulin’s initial reaction was coupled by the unknown.
“There was a shock period after he told us,” he said. “I didn’t even know what the disease was.”
Once the diagnosis was confirmed, Poulin said some of the anxiety lifted, but once he started to do the research, the prognosis was sobering.
“When you look at this disease early on you know,” Poulin said, “longevity is not in your cards.”THE SWITCH
Once the initial shock went away, it became time for Poulin to address and combat the disease.
“Once the diagnosis was made, you have to deal with the reality of it,” he said. “Some of the anxiety of not knowing kind of goes away. You now what you have, you know what you’re dealing with, you know what’s ahead of you.
“It’s about ‘OK, what’s next?’ That’s the switch.”
Poulin made a concerted effort to stay as healthy as possible, continuing his five day a week gym regimen between bouts of sickness, which usually came during the winter. Despite his healthy lifestyle, his doctors believe Poulin will have to begin steady treatment for myeloma within nine months.
After the initial diagnosis, Poulin participated in a clinical trial at Dana Farber once a month, traveling to Boston for an early treatment plan.
“In the first year after I was diagnosed, I’d go down every 28 days and have an infusion of a particular chemotherapy that wasn’t as damaging to the body,” Poulin said.
Other than that, Poulin has done his best to stay healthy, even saying this has been the first winter since his diagnosis that he’s yet to get sick. Still, his doctors are worried that the smoldering multiple myeloma will develop into myeloma, which it commonly does, and that further treatment will be needed in the next nine months.
“The odd thing about myeloma, some people have better numbers than I do, yet can have the active disease,” Poulin said. “Someone with higher numbers than mine may never get the disease.”
Once their grandson was born, the Poulins traveled every six weeks to Virginia to visit their grandchildren, Molly and Wesley. Between trying to see their grandchildren frequently and monthly trips to Dana Farber, the traveling became a burden.
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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.