Team Myra Spira
Boston 5K Walk/Run
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The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is delighted to recognize Team Myra Spira as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2017 MMRF Team for Cures: Boston 5K Walk/Run.
Team Myra Spira
Posted April 2017
Team Myra Spira is captained by sisters, Danielle Spira and Joanna Spira Riess and is named after their mother, Myra. Myra was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2001 and passed away in January of 2010 at the age of 61.
A couple years after Myra was diagnosed, a mentor of Danielle’s who was aware of her mother’s illness and wanted to help, was able to introduce Myra and her husband, Richard, to Dr. Ken Anderson. It was through Dr. Anderson that the Spira family gained insight into what the MMRF does for patients and families. Danielle says Dr. Anderson inspired her parents to get involved which lead them to become regular donors. With nearly 90% of the funds raised going directly to research, they were happy to know their donations would play a small part in helping to further the advancements in myeloma treatment.
Although they were aware of the research side of the MMRF, the Spira family had yet to discover the events and fundraisers the MMRF had to offer. Danielle spent months after her mother’s passing trying to figure out what they should do to best honor her. She wanted to continue her mother’s fight against multiple myeloma by being a part of an organization that was at the front of the pack in developing new drugs and treatments in the search for a cure. She also wanted a way to bring their family and friends together each year to celebrate her mother’s life. Danielle was having a tough time finding the perfect event. Did it already exist? Or was it something she would want to develop herself?
In September of 2010, 8 months after her mom’s passing, Danielle planned a father-daughter weekend trip to Boston for her and her dad. Danielle chose Boston because it has a special place in her heart and great significance to her family. During their trip to Boston, Danielle and her dad were eating at Faneuil Hall when they noticed a family clad in MMRF t-shirts and race bibs. At the time, Danielle wasn’t familiar with MMRF’s organized fundraising events; however, she certainly recognized the MMRF logo. She tapped the shoulder of one of the MMRF wearing family members and asked them about their shirts. She was told that they were participants in the MMRF Race for the Cure, an annual event in Boston that raised funds and awareness for multiple myeloma. Danielle and her father knew this was “Myra gently shoving us in the right direction” says Richard. “In the Yiddish language there’s a word “beshert” which means “what is meant to be”, and at that moment, we turned to each other and knew exactly what we needed to do… it was beshert, and the rest is history!” says Danielle.
They have been participating ever since. Each year after the race they have a tradition to go back to Faneuil Hall for lobster rolls and clam chowder like they did the day they discovered the MMRF Boston 5K Walk/Run. They also host Team Myra Spira for their annual “family meal” either the afternoon or evening before the race. This is a special time for the entire team of family and friends to all come together and remember their mother by telling stories, sharing their favorite memories, and reminiscing the countless funny moments. They have anywhere from 15-30 of their close family and friends and each year, many of whom travel to Boston for the race from all over the country. The newest addition to Team Myra Spira is Joanna’s 8 month old daughter, Mai, who will be taking part of the race and all of these traditions for the first time this year! Mai was named after Myra, and Joanna says “it is a blessing knowing that our mother Myra’s spirit will live on in Mai and that she will one day be proud of her name, even though she never got the chance to meet her amazing, one-of-a-kind grandmother Myra.”
The Spira family truly believes Myra embodies the spirit of hope. Although Myra would say she had several years of tolerable treatments and a great quality of life; her family knew different. It was very tough, but Myra never let on and persevered each and every day for her family. The last few years were especially challenging and she spent a majority of her last year in the hospital. In spite of all this, Myra always chose to remain optimistic and gracefully fought her fight. Danielle believes her mother’s abiding hope and “glass half full” attitude has greatly influenced her own outlook on life and continues to inspire her daily to adhere to that same unwavering optimism her mother best exemplified. Richard, adds to this saying “Myra’s perseverance and courage sent us a powerful message. If she were able to live her life this way during such a difficult time, certainly we can do the same. This was her legacy and I try to tap into it every day.” Myra remained hopeful even in the toughest of times and to never let her illness define her. She decided the only way to conquer this terrible disease was to keep on moving forward and she wouldn’t have it any other way. As Joanna put it “Myra would assure all of us that things would be ok. She never stopped fighting. She never lost hope. We accept this award for our mother, our true spirit of hope.”
The MMRF works tirelessly to find a cure to extend the lives of patients and is proud to honor Team Myra Spira as the 2017 recipient of the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award, given at every MMRF 5K Walk/Run event to a person or team who inspires hope and shows extraordinary commitment to the MMRF. Team Myra Spira has touched the myeloma community with their strength of character, their kindness, and their embodiment of hope.