Geoff Wainwright was vacationing with family and friends near Park City, Utah, when he fell while wakeboarding and broke his shoulder.
An initial x-ray did not reveal much about the injury, so at the request of his perplexed wife Eda, who is an orthopedic surgeon, Wainwright underwent a more thorough examination of his shoulder.
“When I first suffered the injury, my wife took me to the ER and the x-ray didn’t reveal much,” Wainwright said. “Being in the medical profession, she felt that it needed to be investigated further.”
Listening to his wife was a good move. Wainwright recalls an uneasy silence that fell over the examining room nine years ago after the second X-ray revealed something more serious than a broken bone. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that involves too many plasma cells in the bone marrow producing only one type of antibody.
Wainwright’s story of survival will be featured in an upcoming book scheduled to be launched at a benefit luncheon Sunday in Beverly Hills.
“Hearing the news that I had this disease was a sobering experience,” said Wainwright, who lives in Rancho Palos Verdes. “I lived and ate right. I was active. I thought I was going to live forever. When you get a diagnosis like that, you realize that you’re not immortal.”
“I took blood tests, bone scans, MRIs and I had a bone marrow biopsy.” Wainwright added. “It was also discovered that I had holes in my bone structure, which caused my arm to break so easily.”
Researching the disease on the Internet did not help his outlook; outdated information and grim mortality statistics revealed a life expectancy of three years.
Fortunately, Wainwright had a neighbor who worked in the field of oncology who introduced him to Dr. James Berenson, a renowned multiple myeloma expert.
“From the moment I met Dr. B, I knew I had found a doctor I could relate to,” Wainwright said. “He offered me genuine hope as he described numerous treatment options and the improved longevity of his patients, who were living far longer than the statistics I had read.”
Berenson, who is the founder, medical and scientific director of the Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research in West Hollywood, has been taking care of myeloma patients for more than 30 years.
“Ten years ago, treatments were not very effective, and the disease and regimens caused much suffering for our patients,” Berenson said. “Today, many of our patients live fully active lives for decades while undergoing their treatment.”
Wainwright’s treatments have included chemo therapy and taking newer drugs for the past nine years such as Kyprolis and dexamethasone. He also has to have a heart echocardiogram every six months to monitor his heart function.
“I definitely feel that maintaining my physical fitness has been a key to my resiliency during this trial,” Wainwright said. Staying active has played a crucial part to living with the disease. In the summer of 2010, four years after his diagnosis, Wainwright summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. His expeditions have also included climbing Mt. Whitney in a day and trekking above Everest base camp.
More recently, Wainwright was thrilled to help move his twins into college — his daughter to UC Berkeley and son to Duke University.
His account, along with many others living with Multiple Myeloma, is featured in “I Have What?” — a book that was written and composed by Berenson’s wife, Debra. A benefit luncheon for the research foundation the Berenson started will take place Sunday, Sept. 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to officially launch the book. All profits from the book go to IMBCR’s cancer research laboratory.
“Although multiple myeloma has no cure yet, it is treatable,” said Wainwright, who participated in the L.A. Marathon last March to raise funds for the foundation. “Dr. Berenson helps his patients manage their disease so they can live as normal a life as possible and pursue their dreams.”
For more details and to obtain tickets, visit IMBCR.org or call 310-621-1214.