By Alex Cordero
Lupe Duarte, multiple myeloma project manager at City Of Hope, will be flying out of the country for the first time in her life to Patagonia, Argentina to cross over glaciers and hike through deep valleys to raise awareness for multiple myeloma, an incurable type of cancer that develops in plasma cells.
This is a collective initiative by Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), CURE Media Group and Celgene to raise awareness for the disease. These organizations will be sponsoring a group of 13 people consisting of multiple myeloma patients, caregivers, family members and doctors who all connect with each other through the disease.
Duarte’s main role as project manager is to work as a liaison between City of Hope and the MMRF to work on different projects such as new clinical trials, specimen trials or treatment trials for multiple myeloma patients.
She has been the project manager for multiple myeloma at City of Hope since 2009 and has witnessed major medical breakthroughs in multiple myeloma research. “In 2016 there were three new myeloma drugs that were FDA approved,” shared Duarte as she described that before 2016 there had been no new drugs for the disease in decades. “That [new drug] shifted the spectrum for myeloma patients.”
Duarte has been part of MMRF’s Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma sponsored climbing expeditions before, but has not been part of a hike the magnitude of this one through Patagonia in South America. This meaningful excursion will begin on Nov. 9 and conclude on Nov. 18, and Duarte has been preparing for the upcoming excursion since early this year.
Duarte has implemented a physical routine to prepare her body for this trip which gets her up at 3:30 a.m. to go work out at her local gym by 4 a.m. “I’ve lost about close to 30 pounds just in training, and that is something that has helped me personally to feel better.”
“For me it is an honor to be able to take everything that I’ve done [multiple myeloma medical research] and to actually be there with patients, and know them and know their stories and to honor them is what fuels me.”
She has also increased her physical training as the excursion date gets closer by doing strength training and endurance training to get her body stronger for the five day exploration hike. “I had to change my mind set of what I consider working out to make it something extreme,” explained Duarte about the type of lifestyle changes she had to make in order to train for this type of excursion. “I don’t want to miss one day of hiking because I don’t feel good, because I didn’t train enough, because I didn’t prepare my body enough, and that is what inspires me.”
Besides training for the Patagonian trip, Duarte has also been raising funds for multiple myeloma research. The MMRF fully sponsors the trip for the selective applicants that qualify for the hiking trip and once selected the applicant commits to raising money for multiple myeloma research. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go to multiple myeloma research and Duarte committed to raise $10,000 for this event.
When I asked if she had reached her goal she excitedly informed me that she had exceeded her commitment right before meeting with me and would be raising it to see how much more she can raise from now until Nov. 9.
“I met my goal but I have to keep going,” she said with determination. “Every dollar counts, cada dólar cuenta.” Duarte thanked everyone at City of Hope, friends and family who have already donated.
“We are going to the ends of the earth to find a cure for myeloma,” she said. Duarte invites everyone in local communities to get involved in raising awareness for multiple myeloma. If you would like to donate please visit Lupe’s fundraising page.