PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are now a variety of new treatments for multiple myeloma and some of the research that created them has gained funding thanks to the work of South Jersey twins.
Marilyn and Sharon Alexander have a lifetime of memories of sharing everything, even a double wedding.
Their bond was challenged 25 years ago, when Marilyn was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the second most common form of blood cancer.
“I was devastated; I was in complete shock,” said Marilyn. “When I heard the prognosis, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
Doctors said just she only had two to five years to live.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Sharon said.
Treatment options were limited and the most aggressive was a bone marrow transplant.
Since they’re identical twins, Sharon’s stem cells could be used to rebuild Marilyn’s blood without the risks of rejection.
“It was wonderful because it felt like I was helping,” Sharon said. “We’ve always been extremely close; there is a bond between us that is unlike any other sibling.”
Wanting to help others, the twin sisters founded the Philadelphia Multiple Myeloma Networking Group.
It’s annual fundraiser Miles for Myeloma has donated more than $1 million to research.
They’re already busy getting material ready for the 5K on April 28.
“It’s a fun day; we enjoy it,” said Sharon said. “There’s so much comradery.”
Money from the event has helped fund research that’s created more than a dozen new treatments.
“People have options now that they never had before. That’s why we feel the importance of doing fundraising,” Marilyn said.
About 1,000 walkers and runners are expected for the annual Miles for Myeloma this Saturday.
The event takes place in Fairmount Park, with a course starting at Memorial Hall.