Atlanta 5K Walk/Run
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is delighted to recognize Gary Rudman as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2016 MMRF Team for Cures: Atlanta 5K Walk/Run.
In March 2015, Gary and his wife Robin went for a third opinion at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX to find he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Gary met his Doctor, Dr. Robert Orlowski, as he was presenting during a webinar for the 2015 ASH Update. At the end of the webinar, Gary had some questions. Dr. Orlowski provided his email and told the audience to send questions his way. Gary had his doubts, but after a six round email exchange, Dr. Orlowski knew exactly what Gary needed.
Gary chose to participate in the MMRF Atlanta 5K Walk/Run since he wanted to be involved in an MMRF event near his home in Columbia, SC. Close is a relative term. Atlanta is still a 3.5 hour ride from where he lives. Gary and Robin heard about the MMRF Walk/Run after they became close to some of the MMRF staff. He looked at the Walk/Run website and after a few emails back and forth and a phone call or two, they signed up for the Atlanta 5K Walk/Run. To Gary, the value of being part of the bigger picture outweighs the time it will take to drive to a 5K Walk/Run. Additionally, he wants to meet other multiple myeloma patients, share his story, and hopefully help a few folks along the way. As an endurance cyclist, running has never been his strong point. Gary’s goal is to expand the MMRF endurance events to the Southeast region. He will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in February 2017 with 15 others to support the life changing work done by the MMRF in the field of oncology and cancer research. Of the 15 member team, 6 are multiple myeloma patients.
“I want to stress the “exercise” part of the game. Too many people become a “plant” and feel pity, or self-perceived pain. With exercise, you CAN put “away” the problem for a little bit. Finding something you like are key factors. And…don’t limit yourself. Look into MD Anderson’s Center for Integrative Medicine. These methods include but are not limited to exercise, music, meditation, and provide valuable stress relief sessions. The sessions give you back…TIME.”
Gary’s journey and partnership with the MMRF started with Robin. Being an endurance athlete herself, Robin was researching Ironman Competitions and found the MMRF was the sponsoring charity for Ironman Lake Placid. Gary and Robin looked at each other and their eye contact said it all. Gary’s progress was going well, as was Robin’s training, but his Stem Cell Transplant date became August 4th, 2015, just a few days after the race. While he wanted Robin to complete in IMLP 2015, she did not feel comfortable and was not in Ironman shape due to all her time in the hospital supporting Gary. Robin’s entry slot was deferred to July 2016 and as an added bonus she got to run the NYC Marathon with a large contingent of MMRF patients, caregivers, and supporters.
As soon as Gary was diagnosed, he and Robin told their story to family, friends, and on social media. Within two weeks they raised approximately $5,000 for Ironman Lake Placid to help future patients live a long and prosperous life, and for the doctors that research to find a cure for the country’s second most common blood cancer. Robin has now raised over $9,000 to support multiple myeloma cancer research. The fundraising will also directly help Gary and his efforts to turn around this disease.
Gary was asked to create a video to help motivate the MMRF team at Ironman 70.3 Arizona. It was his turn to help. He dressed in the MMRF cycling kit, arranged his bike in his house, and did multiple takes until he was happy with the video and the content. Gary has two main points he wishes to get across, first is his motto: NEVER QUIT. NEVER STOP. NOT TODAY. NOT EVER. His moto, and now team name, started on a cycling metric honoring emergency services personnel in Gaston, SC. Within 10 miles of the finish, he encountered the dreaded “elephant hills.” Over and over he said the words, “NEVER QUIT. NEVER STOP. NOT TODAY. NOT EVER.” This led to Gary finishing the race, and having a great ride overall. The second theme is that he wants to help in any way shape or form. He has spoken with other newly diagnosed MM patients and helps to provide direction to come up with a “game plan.”
Gary created a blog to keep his friends and family updated as well as to connect with other multiple myeloma patients. At first, friends would tell him they were inspired by his writings. He had a hard time with the concept. He could not understand how his genuine honesty would turn its way around and become inspiring to others. His stories are always associated with a “value” or “teaching point” that change the way people think and act. After receiving numerous comments from writing a few articles the “inspired comments” became exponential. At that point he knew he had a talent for bringing what is clear to him to the forefront for others. His goal would be in simplistic terms, “changing the world, one step at a time in any way, shape, or form.”
“You are not defined by cancer. You are defined by what you do. How you hold yourself. How you react to situations, stressful, and not. Emotionally, are you balanced? Is it ok to be off-center? Of course. But find an outlet. Best friends. Family. Sports, or as I like to call it, directed energy. As an Endurance Cyclist, when I ride…my Multiple Myeloma goes into a lock box. I lock the door and I push forward. For whatever time I ride, an hour or four hours, nothing matters. I am FREE. I am NOT in pain. I am NORMAL.”
The MMRF works tirelessly to find a cure to extend the lives of patients and is proud to honor Gary Rudman as the 2016 recipient of the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award. This award is given at every MMRF 5K Walk/Run event to a person who inspires hope and shows extraordinary commitment to the MMRF. Gary has touched the myeloma community with his strength of character, his kindness, and his embodiment of hope.