Ken Comer Patient

When were you first diagnosed with multiple myeloma?

I was diagnosed with a solitary plasmacytoma in January 2022. That single tumor was eliminated with radiation in the spring of 2022, but by the fall of 2022 several tumors had returned. The doctors treat this in the same way as MM, but they are reluctant to call it multiple myeloma. I’m just different. From December 22 to March 2024, I was treated with five different drug combinations — all of which worked for a time, but all of which eventually lost their effects. In May 2024, I completed the much more promising CAR T-cell treatment. It has the effect of completely eliminating the plasmacytomas and allowing me to live disease-free for several years — possibly for life.

How has it affected you, physically?

My hemoglobin and red blood cell counts have been depressed by the chemo- and immunotherapy. As a result, I have not been able to ride as long or as fast as I used to. I normally bicycle between 7000 and 8000 miles a year, but recently this has dropped to around 5000. In earlier years I had accomplished a century (100 miles by bike) in every state. A century ride would be too much for me right now, but I still try to ride every day.

I’m fortunate that my particular manifestation of this disease does not involve any pain or other major physical symptoms. The various drug combinations have not caused any significant or long-lasting side effects. If any cancer patient can be called “lucky,” it would be me.

How did you get involved with the MMRF?

As we began reading about this disease, the MMRF was impossible to ignore. Its impact on MM patients and caregivers has been enormous. The river of information, provided through many formats and involving a spectrum of experts, has been a great help to us. I knew I would do an MMRF bike event as soon as I learned about it.

What do you want people to know about multiple myeloma?

This is a disease that breaks all its own rules. For me, and I suspect for a lot of MM patients, the next phase is a surprise. Doctors talk in probabilities and likelihoods and are reluctant to describe what a ‘typical’ outcome or prognosis would be. So, if you know an MM patient, you should know that they have to face great uncertainty. Some will suffer lingering or debilitating pain. Others, like me, have only minor health issues and can continue our daily pattern of life. For some, the treatments have challenging side effects. Others of us seem to weather the chemical onslaught with limited disruption. It can be trying to maintain a positive attitude when facing such daunting uncertainties. For me, a strong faith, a comforting and supporting family, and plenty of outdoor cycling have been the critical ingredients.

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

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a cyclist. I’ve participated in fundraisers before: MS, American Lung Association, several cancer-related charities, Meals on Wheels, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, and the USO. I handled most of the donations myself. But, this time, I’m cycling and fundraising with an organization that’s been building a cure for me (long before I knew I needed one).

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

I’ve done over 20 Backroads bike tours over the past 13 years and the most enjoyable part is meeting other cyclists. There’s something about long-distance cycling that seems to bring out the best in people. It may be the endorphins or the psychological experience of overcoming obstacles and meeting a challenge. Or it could just be the fresh air and sunshine. At any rate, I enjoy the conversations, the humor, the friendships, and the encouragement that comes from my ‘brothers and sisters’ of the spoked wheel. I’ve never liked golf, but I do envy the social interaction that comes with every game. Unless we participate in group rides – difficult to find and achieve on a regular basis – we have to rely on and look forward to the occasional bike tour to grow our circle of friends.

What does your training regimen for this event look like?

I’ll try to bike six days a week. It’s summer in Virginia, so I’ll set my alarm for early and try to get 20 miles done before breakfast. On some days, I’ll add another ten to 20 miles. I’ll not ride on the occasional rainy morning.

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

My red blood cells and hemoglobin levels have caused me to cut back on my expectations. I ride a regular bike at home, but for this tour (as for several of my more recent Backroads trips) I’ll be using an e-bike. I’ve actually done this Backroads Wine Country tour before, and I think everyone should know that there are some monster hills. I did them last time on a regular road bike so I have deep respect for those of you who will grind them out. As for me, well, as Clint says, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

Who/what inspires you?

We have many family members who are fighting a cancer challenge. Their positive attitudes, active participation in their care, and aggressive search for the best treatments would inspire anybody. More than one of them are outliving their original prognosis. It seems the luck of the draw has put me on a much easier road. If they can do it, I can.

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

This will be my first.

Anything additional to add?

All of us are much, much more than our disease. I refuse to see myself as ‘another cancer patient’. I’ve had a 50-year career in the military, government, and academia. I’ve been an officer on a nuclear submarine, an analyst at the CIA, a DoD executive in wartime, and – for the last ten years – a university professor. I practice in the field of operations research – the science of making structured systems work better through mathematics or simulation. I also practice and teach in the field of complex adaptive systems. These are systems that defy structural controls and predictive analysis. Most importantly, I’ve developed valuable statistical tests to tell a decision-maker when they face a structured or complex adaptive system. I’ve been quoted in the Economist, had articles written about my Pentagon analysis, received awards and medals for my work, and mentored a whole new generation of systems analysts and operations researchers.

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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

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