“The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.”—Tom Ford

While I am grateful to be attending ASH 2021 virtually this year, I do miss the experience of interacting with my fellow International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) Support Group Leaders (SGLs). I have fond memories of sharing meals with other SGLs and learning so much about their families, their professions, and the impact that myeloma has on their lives. I still remember my first ASH experience where I learned so much about the diverse histories of the amazing people with whom I attended. We were united by the common thread of myeloma.

I am particularly grateful to be attending this year’s ASH virtually because my dedicated dog is in “hospice” with worsening anorexia and plummeting weight loss. Despite her condition, she follows me to my office where I continue to learn more about the current and latest treatments for this unshakable disease. I remember her squeals when I came home from California from my stem cell transplant 11 years ago. I so appreciated her staying up with me when I had steroid-induced insomnia. In the middle of the night when I awoke with racing thoughts about my disease, my family, and my future, she was right there by my side. I will miss her dearly.

Don’t get me wrong, the amount of information I continue to learn is truly valuable and I look forward to sharing this knowledge with my local Support Group members. Most of our local meetings are highly informative and we learn about current therapies, new drugs, and their side effects. However, there is no real substitute for getting together in-person to communicate and share ideas and stories about our families and our treatments.

Listening to experts from across the globe means connecting with people who are committed to finding a cure and improving the lives of myeloma patients. We learn to appreciate their dedication to research and clinical trials. We anticipate hearing from them, year after year, as their research progresses from phase I to phase II studies. Even though we don’t know them personally, we start to develop a connection to them — somewhat like a favorite actor, musician, or athlete.

John DeFlice, on Twitter @johnde1MYELOMA