Alicia spent her life taking care of others. Then she found herself in need of support after learning she had fractured her back, permanent kidney damage and aggressive cancer. The cancer is Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer that affects a patient’s bone marrow and can impact their kidneys.
Alicia has spent her life taking care of others. For years she worked as a hair stylist at nursing homes. Then she crossed over to barbering for veterans. She’s worked as a caregiver too, even picking up hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But then she hurt her back and that’s when the tables turned. She found herself in need of support after learning she had fractured her back, had permanent kidney damage and aggressive cancer.
The cancer is Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer that affects a patient’s bone marrow and can impact their kidneys. Alicia immediately headed into treatment – getting dialysis and cancer treatment and having back surgery.
“They didn’t think I would make it because my cancer was so aggressive,” she says.
But she did. There’s no cure for multiple myeloma, but a clinical trial at Froedtert Hospital in her hometown of Milwaukee is helping her stay in remission. First, she went weekly, then biweekly, then monthly and now she goes every two months for treatment, which has included injections and a pill. She knows data shows some people, especially African Americans, have medical mistrust about participating in a clinical trial but she says – she isn’t one of them.
“I was all in because on my dad’s side – everyone passed away from cancer. I lost my mom and dad to cancer. Most of my dad’s brothers and sisters died from cancer and I had 3 siblings who died from cancer too,” Alicia explains. “I have really good doctors. So, when they said they picked this trial for me and they thought it would be a good fit, I said OK I will do it.”
Financially, it’s been a challenge. At first, she didn’t have insurance so it wasn’t easy. Now disabled, she receives SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance. Sometimes she gets a ride to the trial. Other times she drives. Lazarex Cancer Foundation now reimburses her for mileage.
“It’s just 5 or 10 bucks for each trip but when you don’t have income, any kind of help you can get sounds good,” Alicia says. “Getting reimbursed for those costs helps keep money in my account every month, which helps if I need a few dollars for personal care items or to get a sandwich at the hospital after treatment.”
After a lifetime of helping others, Alicia says she’s happy that her participation in research could benefit other patients down the line. She also says she’s deeply grateful to have the Lazarex Cancer Foundation to lean on.
“I never thought I’d be the one on this side but I’m glad Lazarex is around to help out,” she says. “When the social worker told me about Lazarex, I was happy because you feel by yourself when you’re out there going through cancer. This makes me feel like I’m not so alone and that someone cares.”
If you or someone you know has Multiple Myeloma and needs help with finding a cancer clinical trial, or assistance with the costs to travel to clinical trial treatments, contact Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
Learn more about Multiple Myeloma from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.