Meet Carmen Phaneuf
Endurance Events Program PowerTeam Member
Updated: May, 2012
New Jersey resident and multiple myeloma patient Carmen Phaneuf has always led an active lifestyle, enjoying activities ranging from cycling, sailing and skiing to cross country adventure trips. When faced with a stem cell transplant early in 2012, she was determined not to give that lifestyle up. Just a month after the transplant, Carmen was already playing tennis again and became a symbol of hope because of her drive to quickly regain her strength.
Carmen, a Nurse Practicioner, was diagnosed with smoldering multiple myeloma in 2002 at age 34, when having blood work in preparation to start a family. Despite the diagnosis, Carmen and her husband Michael forged ahead and Carmen gave birth to a healthy daughter, Rachael, in December 2003. It was also in 2003 that Carmen first learned of the MMRF, and shortly after Rachael’s birth she participated in the very first MMRF Race for Research 5K Walk/Run: Philadelphia in 2004.
Carmen continued to stay active and feel healthy for many years. In December 2010, a scheduled bone marrow biopsy revealed an unexpected increase in myeloma cells, an early warning that Carmen’s myeloma was beginning to progress. A visit to her parents in Hawaii was a welcome respite to this new development. While at the beach in Maui, Carmen heard a swimmer calling for help and, along with the man’s wife, rescued him from drowning. Carmen learned that the man she had saved was a physician who was weakened by a battle with multiple myeloma. This uncanny coincidence left her feeling compelled to do more to make a difference, and that very same day she signed up for the 40 mile 2011 Five Boro Bike Tour, one of the MMRF PowerTeam's most popular events.
At the ride, Carmen raised over $10,000 for myeloma research. "I was so excited about this ride, so overwhelmed with the generosity of family, friends and strangers,” said Carmen. At that event, Carmen met fellow MMRF PowerTeam member Dr. Alex Spira of Virginia Cancer Specialists. They completed the ride together - a patient and a myeloma doctor - making the experience all the more meaningful for both.
In September 2011, Carmen officially began treatment for her myeloma under the care of Dr. David Siegel’s group in Hackensack, NJ at the John Theurer Cancer Center. She began to prepare for her stem cell transplant that she eventually underwent in January, 2012 (intentionally scheduled to happen after Christmas at her daughter’s insistence!).
Carmen and Michael keep friends and family up to speed throughout her journey with regular online updates. Their positive attitude and the grace with which they tackle each new challenge shines through their words. As Carmen states, her intention is to live fully and actively and fight this one step at a time. Monthly restaging blood work will determine if Carmen’s cancer is in remission after the transplant. She is hopeful.
Though Carmen was not ready to ride in this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour on May 6, she broke new ground by signing up as a “Virtual Rider”, giving her friends and family an opportunity to support the work the MMRF is doing to extend lives and keep working towards a cure. Carmen plans to be on her bike at the 2013 event, and hopes to be joined by family members and friends riding alongside her.
Carmen (at right) with Dr. Spira and another rider in 2011
Carmen with husband Michael and daughter Rachael
Carmen and Rachael
Carmen and Michael two weeks post-transplant