Whistlerite Yolande Paine wants something cleared up off the bat: melanoma and myeloma are two different things, the former a serious form of skin cancer, the latter a rare form of blood cancer.
“Most people mistake it for melanoma,” said Paine, who has lived with myeloma since 2012. “I never knew anybody who had myeloma, so it’s relatively unknown. We’re trying to change that and trying to educate people.”
It’s an uphill battle Paine and other myeloma patients often find themselves fighting to raise awareness. A blood cancer associated with the abnormal behaviour and uncontrolled growth of plasma cells—which can negatively affect different parts of the body, such as the bones and kidneys—11 Canadians on average are diagnosed with the disease every day, according to Myeloma Canada.
To date, there is no cure for myeloma, but advancements in research and treatment have allowed patients to live longer, more comfortable lives with the disease.
“Myeloma patients 20 years ago would be lucky to live three years [after diagnosis]. There have been many changes in research and in treatment,” Paine said.
Whistler has contributed to those efforts in its own small way, raising roughly $36,000 for Myeloma Canada at last year’s Bearfoot Bistro World Oyster Invitational & Bloody Caesar Battle, the closing event of Cornucopia, Whistler’s annual food and drink festival. This year’s event, slated for Sunday, Nov. 19 at the Whistler Conference Centre, will once again raise much-needed funds for the organization.
“I’m thrilled that this fundraiser is going on, and one of my fellow myeloma patients is the one that organized some friends together to raise money for Myeloma Canada,” said Paine. “We need money for research. We need to raise awareness and raise funds.”
Marc Des Rosiers, Bearfoot Bistro’s communications manager, said putting on a fundraiser of this magnitude relies on the generosity of suppliers like the event’s presenting sponsor, Sawmill Bay Shellfish Company, which is donating a whopping 8,000 oysters for attendees to enjoy.
“Quite often we do events where we like to tag on a charity component, and this time we’re reaching out to all of our sponsors and to all of the product being donated in order for the net proceeds of the event to be given to a charity. That’s pretty unique,” he said.
Heading into its 11th edition, this year’s World Oyster Invitational welcomes 20 shuckers from as far away as Japan, who will vie for the cash prize and bragging rights as the world’s preeminent shucker. A growing component of the event is the Bloody Caesar Battle. This year, nine mixologists will compete to pour the best Caesar, a Canadian staple.
For her part, Paine’s myeloma journey has, like so many cancer patients, come with its ups and downs. Originally diagnosed with “smouldering” myeloma, the disease grew active, before Paine underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016. Today, thanks to a trio of drugs, Paine’s myeloma is officially in remission.
“I’m in remission and doing very well,” the 69-year-old said. “My quality of life is huge. I can hike mountains and walk 20K, 25K. The treatment doesn’t stop me from leading a regular life, a healthy life.”
Paine also wanted to stress to other myeloma patients out there: you are not alone.
“There is help out there through Myeloma Canada and other great support groups,” she said. “There’s lots of hope. I didn’t have that when I was diagnosed. I didn’t know much about Myeloma Canada and we didn’t have a Vancouver support group at the time. There are just so many resources for people now, and Myeloma Canada is a wonderful organization.”
To learn more, visit myelomacanada.ca.
The World Oyster Invitational runs from 3 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 19. Tickets include refreshments, food and entertainment, available at showpass.com/oysterfest2023.