According to a story from Deseret News, after she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Jenny Ahlstrom almost immediately had to make crucial decisions regarding her treatment: decisions that could mean the difference between life and death. She says it took her nearly three years to gain an understanding of the science behind myeloma. At the time, life expectancy for this type of cancer was only a little over two years.
About Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is a form of blood cancer that affects the plasma cells. In its early stages, it may not produce symptoms. Plasma cells are responsible for the production of antibodies. The cause of multiple myeloma is unknown, but there are several risk factors, such as monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, obesity, alcohol, family history, exposure to certain chemicals, and exposure to radiation. Affected plasma cells release abnormal antibodies that can cause of range of problems, such as thickened blood, kidney dysfunction, and, occasionally, amyloidosis. Plasma cells can also develop into a mass in the bone marrow. Symptoms include infections, anemia, kidney failure, bone pain, incontinence, headache, and carpal tunnel. Five year survival rate is 49 percent in the US. To learn more about multiple myeloma, click here.
The challenge of getting a devastating diagnosis like multiple myeloma is often one of the most difficult parts of facing life with a rare and potential lethal illness. This struggle was what prompted Jenny and her husband Paul to create the non-profit organization HealthTree. HealthTree is a unique research database that prioritizes patient’s own experiences. Cancer patients are able to share the health experiences and information in order to create a valuable resource both for other patients and for scientists.
The site is a subsidiary of another organization the Ahlstroms had established earlier, called the CrowdCare Foundation. HealthTree helps patients review their treatment options by hearing firsthand accounts from other patients. In addition, the site can also help connect patients with cutting edge clinical trials that are testing treatments for their disease.
Jenny uses her own experience as a recently diagnosed patient to tailor the site into a resource that she wished she had when she was first diagnosed. Click here to check out the HealthTree site.