San Francisco 5K Walk/Run
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is delighted to recognize Yvonne Cooper as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2015 MMRF Team for Cures San Francisco 5K Walk/Run.
Yvonne was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2002. She went to the doctor because of pain in her sternum whenever she pushed a door or something heavy. Doctors thought the pain was caused from a simple muscle strain until the pain continued to worsen significantly. Even after a chest x-ray, her doctor still suggested muscle strain knowing of Yvonne’s dedication to downhill skiing, walking, and yoga. The pain intensified and it was now time to take her pain more seriously. It was suggested that she have an MRI of her sternum area.
The result showed a jagged edged split sternum with a tumor pushing the bone apart. When they biopsied the tumor, they discovered myeloma cells in the form of a plasmacytoma, a rare type of myeloma. Yvonne was stunned at the diagnosis and searched for several other “second opinions,” in hopes that there was a mistake in her diagnosis. She immediately was advised to receive radiation to kill the myeloma cells. “Every day I would leave work early so that I could have a 4pm radiation appointment.”
Although the disease had taken Yvonne by surprise, she never lost hope. At that time, she confided in a few family members and friends who she believes to be her “prayer warriors,” said Yvonne. Yvonne suggested that they take a few minutes every day at 4pm to pray for her health and visualize her being well. When asked about her myeloma, Yvonne says “I continue to be prayerful and am very thankful for my health and wellness, and I feel very blessed.”
Yvonne began to feel better after the first treatment. She continued to have frequent blood tests, several bone marrow biopsies, urine evaluations, Pet Scans, and monthly Aridia drip. The myeloma could not be measured in her blood, urine, or bone marrow. This made Yvonne a non-secretor, which is even a more rare form of multiple myeloma. Then in 2005 during a routine evaluation, the doctor found two more plasmacytomas, one in Yvonne’s left clavical and the other in her right forearm. It was recommended that she stop skiing in addition to starting a new medication. “I remember how emotionally painful that was, especially since I had just purchased a season ski pass at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe, CA,” said Yvonne. Yvonne was hospitalized just two years later because of blood clots in her lungs.
One medication after the next, it was as though Yvonne could not escape the side effects of each treatment, which in turn were detrimental to her overall health. It’s now 2015 and Yvonne has not taken medication since 2009 with the exception of Coumedin. Yvonne shared, “I feel truly blessed and very thankful that they have found no more myeloma cells in my body.”
In addition to Yvonne’s journey battling myeloma, she turns to outside resources for further help. She has been participating in the MMRF San Francisco 5K walk/run since 2003 because she is “convinced that there will eventually be a cure.” Her support group, San Francisco Bay Area support group, was offering anyone who got donations to be in a drawing for a beautiful ring that year. This was enough to motivate Yvonne to gather donations, grab her walking buddy and drive the 45 minutes to San Francisco. “I remember that year as the weather was low fog or misty and was that much more inspired to participate the next year when the MMRF offered a windbreaker jacket for those who reached a certain amount of donations,” explained Yvonne. Looks like she loves our incentives!
In recent years, Yvonne and her friends all go to a local restaurant for lunch after the race which helps to bring everyone closer. She is known in her community as “the lady who raises awareness and informs people about Multiple Myeloma.” Although Yvonne is still battling this cancer, she continues to golf two days a week, she still travels to incredible places around the world such as China, Egypt, South Africa, West Africa, Mexico, several European countries, and many states in U.S. Yvonne and her husband, Will, have one daughter, and celebrated their 43rd anniversary back in December. In spite of everything, they also take care of Yvonne’s 91 year old mother who resides with them. After a tragic fire at their home in 2013, Yvonne is currently very involved in the rebuild of their home.
The MMRF works tirelessly to find a cure to extend the lives of patients just like Yvonne, and is proud to honor her as the 2015 recipient of the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award, given at every MMRF 5K Walk/Run event to a person who inspires hope and shows extraordinary commitment to the MMRF. Yvonne has touched the myeloma community with her strength of character, her kindness, and her embodiment of hope.