Last year in London, a flash mob took the streets and pounded out a choreographed routine to the song “I Am What I Am”. They weren’t just having a blast and disrupting traffic. They were creating awareness for a rare disease called Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS). October 25 is Global MDS Awareness Day, so it’s time to get the word out again for this often overlooked disorder.
According to the MDS Alliance, MDS are a group of diverse bone marrow disorders in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. Most people with MDS are older than age 65, but it can affect anyone. Approximately 10-15,000 new cases of MDS are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. But many cases may go unreported.
In most cases, the causes of MDS are a mystery, although it is thought that some people may be more predisposed to developing it than others. Radiation and chemotherapy are often triggers for MDS development, and people who receive radiation therapy for potentially curable cancers, such as breast or testicular cancers, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are at risk of developing MDS for up to 10 years following treatment. Exposure to toxic chemicals may also trigger MDS symptoms, which include anemia, decreased immunity to infections and an increased tendency for bleeds or bruising.
The MDS Alliance and MDS Foundation provide a wealth of resources and support for people living with MDS and their loved ones, including The Building Blocks of Hope handbook, available online.
Even if you can’t dance or attend a MDS Global Awareness event, you can help support people with MDS. Since red blood cell transfusions are frequently the treatment for MDS, donating blood or plasma at your local Red Cross is a great way to take action.