At 33, Pat Flavin was living in Hong Kong when she was diagnosed with MGUS (Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance), a benign condition in which abnormal protein is found in the blood. Pat’s doctors told her that a small percentage of people with MGUS develop multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, later on in life, but that the chances of this happening were rare.
Pat went on to live a pretty normal life, working hard in Hong Kong and raising a family of three children. Pat felt blessed to be a mother and life was good.
That was the case until she received another diagnosis in 2009, but this time it wasn’t her, it was her eldest daughter Paige, who at 17 years of age was diagnosed with melanoma. To make matters worse, her son Fraser, 14 years old, was also diagnosed with melanoma later that same year.
Pat was devastated. She had always made sure her children wore sunscreen and covered up under the sun; she couldn’t comprehend how they both could have developed a skin cancer. Pat spent all her time taking care of her children, making sure they had everything they needed to heal.
“My middle daughter Brynne developed an eating disorder as a result of her siblings being diagnosed with cancer in such a short amount of time” Pat explained, “Cancer is a physical illness, but an eating disorder is a mental health issue, our family really needed to come together to support each other, support is a big part of healing.”
Pat was so focused on her children, she didn’t realize that something was not right with her. In January of 2014, exactly 25 years after being diagnosed with MGUS, Pat found out she had multiple myeloma. The diagnosis was another huge shock to the family.
Since being diagnosed in 2014, Pat has had many ups and downs with chemo treatments and clinical trials; not ever fully entering remission. In August 2016, she had a bone marrow transplant, which was supposed to “buy” her 4 years, but after a few months, it was clear that even the transplant was unsuccessful. “There is nothing more they can do for me, I am buying time… it has been really tough.”
Through the ups and downs, Pat found support with myeloma support groups and the First Connection Program at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC). “The one thing that I liked about LLSC was the buddy system, I was matched with a woman named Marnie before my transplant who had undergone three transplants. She was so knowledgeable and I found the information so empowering; she really kept me going,” Pat explained. “I also have a great doctor, Dr. Nantel, and my BMT/ VGH nurses are fantastic, and I couldn’t ask for a better caregiver than my husband Mike.”
Today Pat is content that her children are all doing well, but realizes that her cancer journey is far from over. Pat’s youngest daughter Brynne finds healing in the outdoors and being active. She works seasonally at Apex Reforestation planting trees and has found support and a healing community within this group. Friends and fellow tree planters surprised Brynne when they created “Pat’s forest;” planting over 64,270 trees and donating their wages to show support for her mother battling cancer. Together, the team raised almost $2,000 in support of Pat’s Light The Night Walk Team Pat’s Pals.
Pat doesn’t really believe in living life to the fullest. She just lives each day the best way she can. Some days she is tired and needs rest, while on other days she is spending time with her family dancing the night away and making memories. Pat is looking forward to the Light The Night Walk on October 13 at Stanley Park. “I am holding on for Light The Night, I want to make it to the event that helps so many others like me.”