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James M’s Journey with Multiple Myeloma

James M. knows how to probe the narratives of history. As a research historian for a firm based in the Washington, DC area, it’s his job. He loves it. But he had no idea his research skills were about to be put to the test. 

He remembers sitting on a train over Memorial Day weekend in 2019. James was dealing with a great deal of physical discomfort. Random pains, laborious breathing, even laughing was difficult. He knew he needed to see a doctor and finally checked into a hospital. After nine days of tests, a diagnosis: Multiple Myeloma. James was 23.

James Mitchell2

James had never heard of Multiple Myeloma. He was worried, but it also made him curious. James turned to his research skills to better understand the future he was about to face. “In some ways, it was a relief to know,” says James. “We had an answer and could now go about treating the cancer.”

That treatment started with chemotherapy, but James’s cancer continued to spread. Lesions began appearing on his spine, causing even more pain. His doctors recommended radiation, with no improvement.

James turned to Lancaster General Health, part of the University of Pennsylvania medical system. He describes the moment as “serendipitous,” when he met an oncologist specializing in Multiple Myeloma–and a principal investigator for a new clinical trial drug. “It’s one of those weird twists and turns that gets you to where you need to be,” says James.

James travels once a week from Lancaster to Philadelphia, PA for his clinical trial treatments at Penn Medicine’s flagship hospital. While his travel expenses don’t incur flights and hotels, out-of-pocket costs still add up. He was recently introduced to Lazarex by his clinical care team. James notes that while his clinical team addresses his medical care, Lazarex rounds out his support system. “Cancer is not just about medical costs; it’s about so many other costs. Groups can address the medical and emotional costs. Lazarex addresses the logistical costs.”

The costs include transportation to-and-from his clinical trials. James points out that while he is still relatively new to his career, “I have been fortunate in that my employer is supportive. But there are so many unforeseen costs. I didn’t have huge savings to fall back on. The support from Lazarex makes a huge difference financially. I get mileage and toll reimbursements.”

His support system includes his parents and sister, all living in the Lancaster area. As with Lazarex, he is grateful for the family support. “It is the reason I can manage all my life stresses. They have all taken on the burden as a great source of comfort and love for me. It’s inspiring and humbling.”