Olympian skater Scott Hamilton was the keynote speaker at the CURE media group’s sixth annual myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) Heroes celebration, honoring nine individuals who have also dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others in the MPN community.
What is MPN?
Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) are a group of disorders in which the bone marrow stem cells grow and reproduce abnormally. In MPN, abnormal stem cells produce excess numbers of one or more types of blood cells (red cells, white cells and/or platelets). These abnormal cells cannot function properly and can cause serious health problems unless properly treated and controlled.
MPNs are chronic diseases that, in most cases, remain stable for many years and progress gradually over time.
Many people have no symptoms when they are first diagnosed with an MPN and tend to develop gradually over time. Common symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Itchiness (pruritus)
- Night sweats
Hero Celebrating Heroes
The Heroes celebration was held on the eve of the annual American Society of Hematology meeting in San Diego, and Hamilton was chosen to speak because of his own battles with rare cancers; testicular cancer and craniopharyngioma, a rare brain tumor.
“Tonight, we celebrate life…and the work being done to create better outcomes and keep families together,” Hamilton said at the event. “Every breath is an opportunity and a miracle, and we’re here to celebrate miracles tonight. We can if we all link arms and make a difference.”
The honorees were a varied mix of patient advocates, healthcare professionals, researchers, and caregivers – each representing different but individually important aspects of living with a rare disease and advocating for awareness and treatments.
Hamilton’s voice in the evening punctuated the message of hope and determination, as someone who has been thorough the ringer.
“Cancer was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life, and also the best thing,” he said. Without it, he added, “I would not have met my wife and would not have my children.”
He encouraged everyone in attendance to keep working together to fight MPNs.
“God made each and every one of us angels, but he only gave us one wing,” Hamilton said. “The only way we can truly fly is to raise each other, and that’s what we do tonight. We celebrate these people and we celebrate life.”
And Hamilton not only talks the talk, but walks (or skate) the walk, as the founder of the CARES Foundation, which is “dedicated to changing the future of cancer by funding advanced, innovative research that treats the cancer while sparing the patient.”
So thank you to Scott Hamilton and CURE for spotlighting this rare disease and for honor the foot soldiers who do the good work to raising awareness and putting human faces on it.