Karen Riibner Patient

When were you first diagnosed with multiple myeloma?

August 2016

How has it affected you, physically?

Prior to my diagnosis, I had severe and worsening pain in my back and across my chest, which became disabling. This pain turned out to be where the MM lesions developed in my spine and other skeletal areas in my body. After several months of chemotherapy, followed by a stem cell transplant in early 2017, this pain significantly decreased. However, my doctors were unwilling to clear me medically for my favorite sport and pastime—downhill skiing—because of the fragility of my spine (eventually, they cleared me after years of MM treatment, strength training, and bone strengthening infusions). Happily, I have been enjoying my passion every ski season for the last couple of years. The other physical impact has been on my GI system. I have had worsening stomach upset and other bowel challenges related to the chemotherapy and maintenance treatments. This has been particularly challenging because I am a real foodie and find food to be one of life’s great pleasures. 

How did you get involved with the MMRF?

Soon after I received my multiple myeloma diagnosis in 2017, a good friend sent me a link to “Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma (MM4MM)” and said, “This is for you!” At that point, I didn’t even know what the illness was about, much less how or why I would move mountains for it.

What do you want people to know about multiple myeloma? 

MM is a blood cancer that has no cure, yet it can be effectively treated as a result of the multitude of available treatments, many of which have been supported by the MMRF. I have lived with it (much of that time in complete and full remission) for 7 years and engage in almost everything that I enjoyed before the diagnosis.

Why is participating in the MMRF Road to Victories ride important to you?

I am committed to supporting the MMRF because of my personal connection to the disease, along with the fact that 100% of every dollar raised from this ride will be directed toward research by the MMRF. This is due to the generous support of Janssen Oncology. MM research (much of it in conjunction with MMRF) and the commitment of the pharmaceutical companies have led to the developments of effective medications that have literally saved my life. I want to give back to this field and show others that this disease is treatable and manageable with specialized medical care. 

What are you looking most forward to/excited about in regard to the ride?

I thoroughly enjoyed my MMRF Sweden trek last year, and I am looking forward to the same camaraderie with my Road to Victories team members in Oregon. I liked the physical activity while being with others living with MM who enjoy life’s joys and pleasures along with the challenges. I liked and appreciated every person on the trek, whether MMRF staff, other patients, or support people. It was refreshing to be with such positive and committed people. 

What does your training regimen for this event look like? 

Most of my training has been on my Peloton and has included cycling, strength training, and stretching. I have also done outdoor power walking and some outdoor cycling. This regimen was interrupted because of my bout with pneumonia in July 2023, however (see below). 

Describe any challenges you have needed to overcome to be able to participate in this event.

I unexpectedly was hospitalized when I developed pneumonia while on vacation in mid July this year. At the time, I was pretty sure that I could not participate in this event. I have never had pneumonia and had not been an inpatient at a hospital since my stem cell transplant in 2017. Fortunately, my lung capacity remained strong (I attribute this to my physical fitness), and my doctors cleared me to do the ride. 

Who/what inspires you? 

I am inspired by those who overcome challenges, find a way to appreciate the joys in life, and have “generosity of heart.” 

Have you participated in previous MMRF events? If so, which/when?

Yes, Sweden Trek in 2022. 

Anything additional to add?

I am once again so very grateful to have my physical and emotional health restored and be able to support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) with another fundraising event in 2023. I hold gratitude in my heart daily. 

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The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is the largest nonprofit in the world solely focused on accelerating a cure for each and every multiple myeloma patient. We drive the development and delivery of next-generation therapies, leverage data to identify optimal and more personalized treatment approaches, and empower myeloma patients and the broader community with information and resources to extend their lives. Central to our mission is our commitment to advancing health equity so that all myeloma patients can benefit from the scientific and clinical advances we pursue. Since our inception, the MMRF has committed over $500 million for research, opened nearly 100 clinical trials, and helped bring 15+ FDA-approved therapies to market, which have tripled the life expectancy of myeloma patients. To learn more, visit www.themmrf.org.

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