Rare blood cancer has higher Incidence in African Americans

Although it is a rare blood cancer, multiple myeloma is an aggressive and rapidly progressive illness that causes certain white blood cells, normally responsible for combating illnesses, to be overproduced. This proliferation of abnormal cells is known as myeloma cells, and can lead to the growth of tumors that may potentially spread to multiple sites in the body.

During the past 10 to 15 years there has been a concentrated effort in developing updated and more effective medical treatments for this disease, which sees an average of 15,000-20,000 newly diagnosed cases in the United States each year. New therapies are providing more effective treatment options for patients that increase overall survival, in some cases, to as many as 10 years post-diagnosis. Multiple myeloma, not unlike many cancers, has become more of a managed illness for patients and their caregivers, but the illness is not without one curious health phenomenon.

For the past three decades, the incident and mortality rates for multiple myeloma have mostly leveled off, except within the black community, which has seen significant growth when compared to Caucasian populations. This rare form of blood cancer disproportionately affects African Americans and is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among blacks. Studies indicate that African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with this disease versus caucasians and other ethnic groups, and data also points toward an increased incidence and younger onset of the disease.

Treatment Challenges Remain

The causes and reasons for this spike of activity, as well as the racial disparity in incidence and mortality remain unclear. Various elements such as diet, socioeconomic status, and occupation have been closely studied to determine the root causes of this discrepancy, but nothing conclusive has been drawn. Although the elevated risk of contracting multiple myeloma is seemingly elevated among blacks who live at certain socioeconomic levels and who operate within particular occupations, further research and discussion is required in order to determine the environmental and genetic factors that may determine multiple myeloma. Additionally, data demonstrates that African-Americans also have a lower rate for becoming potential bone marrow and stem cell donors than other indigenous groups, and are less likely to participate in clinical trials with novel treatments. These facts are disconcerting among public health leaders who shoulder the responsibility to help these patients receive current disease information, but use that data for treatment.

What makes myeloma a challenge to diagnose is that disease symptoms can also be found in other illnesses. For example, one of the medical conditions often caused by a myeloma tumor is the destruction of bone, which may not be seen initially as cancer-related. With a clearer understanding of the genesis of the myeloma patient’s condition, the attending physician may suggest the intervention of an oncologist who will make a more accurate cancer diagnosis. It’s critical for African Americans who experience any type of bone or muscle pain, numbness in their extremities, muscle weakness or infections, including pneumonia, to schedule an appointment with their physician to determine the extent of their condition.

Beyond treatment. An Informed Black Community

There are a growing number of available resources to African Americans who are living with multiple myeloma or those who suspect they may have contracted this blood cancer. Groups like the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, International Myeloma Foundation and Tackle Cancer Foundation are excellent sources for gathering important information about symptoms, treatment options, oncologists and a myriad of data that may impact a future cancer patient. In fact, one of these resources that is directed at African Americans and recently became available is an educational DVD co-sponsored by the Tackle Cancer Foundation and Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company. “Multiple Myeloma in the African American Community” is an effective resource for patients and caregivers and spearheaded by Kimberly Alexander, who lost her husband, Elijah, to multiple myeloma.

“My desire to stay educated about multiple myeloma didn’t end when my husband lost his battle with cancer due to complications from the disease. I will forever be concerned about the possible implications this may have for our children, grand children and future generations. Because I know the of the incidence rates of multiple myeloma within the African American community my wish for a cure goes beyond doing something in memory of my husband, it could be the difference maker for our family for years to come.”

For more information or to obtain this DVD, visit: www.mymultiplemyeloma.com.

Kathy Gram is senior director, Patient Advocacy, Takeda Pharmaceuticals; and Kimberly Alexander is president, Tackle Cancer Foundation, which informs the public about multiple myeloma.

Walters Art Museum celebrates 80th anniversary

— In honor of the Walters Art Museum’s 80th anniversary as a public institution, the museum will display be 200 works of art in seven galleries, “From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story,” will take you on a up-close and personal tour of William and Henry Walters’ personal art collection.

African-American Ira Aldridge in the role of Othello by William Mulready.

(Photo Credit: Walters Art Museum)

African-American Ira Aldridge in the role of Othello by William Mulready.

You will get a chance to see and read about the choices they made in picking incredible pieces of art from around the world. To experience this installation was beyond words and trust there is something for everyone.

The Walters Art Museum is celebrating their anniversary by re-branding itself by not only showcasing this installment, but by having the public view others as well. It’s the perfect opportunity for those who have never been to the Walters to visit and for those familiar with the museum to get reacquainted with its offerings. You can also visit online, www.thewalters.org to view their online collection of art.

From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story, will be on display until April 17, 2014. To see art pieces from the installation checkout our Facebook Page: Facebook.com/TheBaltimoreTimes.

Film Review: ‘Dear White People’

The film “Dear White People” is a satirical drama written and directed by Justin Simien. The film focuses on black students attending an Ivy League college in America starring Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P Bell, Kyle Gallner, Brittany Curran, Marque Richardson and Dennis Haysbert.

Ever wonder what the black experience is like living in a white world? This movie delves into two topics: what whites think about blacks and how blacks treat each other. Along the way, the film tackles several issues including what one will do to become successful, the use of pop culture in black and white society, the have and have nots, love, and of course racism. It also a film about finding your voice and self discovery.

The film opens from the end detailing events that lead up to a racial conflict. Then the film rewinds five weeks prior, showing what leads up to the clash. Tessa Thompson is wonderful as Samantha White, the conflicted leader of a black student group trying to get justice for blacks on campus, while struggling with her own mixed race identity. Watch out for Tyler James Williams who plays Lionel Higgins. We watched him grow up right before our eyes on “Everybody Hates Chris” and now you get a chance to see him stretch his acting skills.

Indie Soul welcomes your questions and comments. To contact Phinesse Demps, call 410-366-3900 ext. 3016 or 410-501-0193 or email: pdemps@btimes.com. Follow him on Twitter: @lfpmedia.

Smart tips to make fall lawn care easier

— A beautiful lawn is important for a lovely home, but when those autumn leaves begin to fall, some extra effort is required to keep things picture perfect. This once meant firing up noisy machinery and piling up bag after bag of yard waste. Now that we live in more environmentally-conscientious times, this might not seem like such a responsible idea.

Doing things by hand doesn’t have to lead to a sore back. Learning some helpful hints can make your lawn really stand out this year and help you get the job done in a breeze.

Spring is when the lawn and garden really come into full bloom, but fall is when plants are storing energy and nutrients to have ready when the season turns. Like an athlete training in the offseason, get a step up on the competition by building a good foundation. Now’s the time to fertilize and aerate since roots keep growing and storing energy even when above-ground growth slows during the colder months. Don’t forget to keep watering too!

Weeding can be made less painful if you adhere to the old gardener’s trick of completing this task after it rains. When the earth is dry, it’s harder to pull out the whole weed without breaking off the top. After rainfall, the ground is soft, making it easier to pluck out entire weeds. They can easily be added to leaves and other debris that needs to be hauled away.

Leaves can smother your lawn if enough of them build up, preventing sunlight from reaching the grass and increasing the chances of lawn disease. Collecting the leaves in bags allows your lawn to breathe and receive proper sunlight.

The average cost to remove leaves is $374. There are easy DIY methods that can save you money. To make your life easier and get the job done faster, consider using tools such as the EZ Leaf Hauler, which acts like a giant dustpan for leaves, and is a cost-effective, green alternative.

Reduce waste by packing more leaves into every bag with tools like the EZ Leaf Stomper or using leaves and yard debris for mulch or compost.

Good posture can also prevent backaches when raking leaves. Keep your head up and back straight. Relieve back pressure by raking in the “scissors” stance: placing one foot forward and the other back and reversing position when comfortable. Another option is to haul tarps by using pull handles like EZ Tarp Tugger.

Opt for ergonomically designed rakes, shears and pruners that require less hand strength and provide a comfortable non-slip grip to help prevent muscle soreness. More information on innovative tools for raking, hauling and bagging yard waste can be found at www.ezlawnandgarden.com

Get a head start on home improvement this fall with smart lawn and garden care. Grab the kids and get the clippers, rake ‘em in and bag ‘em up.

Stevie Wonder brings legendary songs to Washington

Area residents will get the second chance in less than a month to relive the glory days of the Motown sound.

Motown Records legend Stevie Wonder is celebrating his seminal 1976 album, “Songs in the Key of Life,” during a new concert tour, which arrives at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, November 9, 2014.

“The record came to me naturally,” Wonder said during an earlier interview for his late mother’s biography, “Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway, Stevie Wonder’s Mother,” published by Simon & Shuster. “My daughter (Aisha Morris) was just born and I had fully recovered from an accident and everything clicked,” he said of the “Songs in the Key of Life” album, the most successful of Wonder’s hall of fame career.

The album spawned such hits as, “I Wish,” “Sir Duke,” “Another Star,” and “Isn’t She Lovely,” which was dedicated to his then newborn daughter, Aisha.

“On, ‘Isn’t She Lovely,’ Stevie indulges those of us who want beloved songs to go on,” said Bill Janovitz, a music writer for the New York Observer. “The album is an emotional juggernaut, an immensely generous gift from the heart of a genius, and a masterpiece by almost any measure.”

Wonder’s D.C. concert, one of just 11 shows that the 64-year-old singer will perform on the tour, arrives in the nation’s capital just two weeks after fellow Motown alum Gladys Knight mesmerized an audience during her concert at the Warner Theatre in Washington.

Wonder will open the tour at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Nov. 6, and, in addition to Washington, the icon will perform in Philadelphia; Boston; Chicago; Las Vegas; Seattle; Auburn Hills, Michigan; Atlanta; and Toronto, Canada.

Wonder set forth to cover the breadth suggested by the album’s title, nothing less than the “key of life,” Janovitz said.

And if he did not quite hit it all, his aim was true. It was the culmination of a four-album run astonishingly released in just a 39-month timeframe of sustained excellence unmatched aside from the Mt. Rushmore of 1960s-1970s giants of popular music— the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and maybe Van Morrison.

“Over the course of the sprawling record, two full-length LPs and a four-song 7-inch EP, he makes nary a misstep. From the musical compositions, to the lyrics, astonishing performances and sterling production, it has to be counted as one of the greatest records of all time. If simply judged as an album of vocal performances, I can think of none better.”

Janovitz also noted that the album arrived from one of the “greatest singers of the 20th and 21st centuries at the prime of his abilities” and it was the first album released under Wonder’s staggering new seven-year, $37 million contract with Motown Records.

“I love doing my best songs when I perform,” Wonder said in a previous interview. “Because people pay their hard-earned money and this is what they want.”

Tickets for the concert start at $61.80. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.verizoncenter.monumentalnetwork.com, livenation.com, or ticketmaster.com.

United Way Family Center opens in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay to support teen parents

— United Way of Central Maryland announced the grand opening of the United Way Family Center, the organization’s first school-based family support center, which will provide free services to Baltimore City parents in ninth through twelfth grades so they may continue attending school. The center opened to families on Thursday, October 30, 2014.

The center, which will operate out of Benjamin Franklin High School in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay, will use a unique “community school” model of wraparound services for its students and families. The center will provide early childhood education for approximately 20 children of teen parents currently attending Baltimore City Public Schools, allowing them to continue their education. In addition, the center will offer parenting seminars, financial education and job readiness classes to community residents. These combined programs aim to build up families and prepare teen parents for self-sufficient, productive lives at home and in the workforce, while helping break the cycle of unplanned pregnancies. The United Way Family Center is open to all ninth to twelfth graders in Baltimore City who are expecting or are new parents.

“Having a child while still in school is incredibly difficult to balance, and far too many of our students abandon their education as a result. Thank you to United Way for taking the lead in putting our teens back on track for graduation, and allowing them to set an example for their children,” said Dr. Gregory E. Thornton, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.

The United Way Family Center is part of United Way of Central Maryland’s Family Stability Initiative, which was launched in 2012 to prevent and to end family homelessness. Families who participate in the initiative have access to a continuum of services to help put them on the path to self-sufficiency. These services include intensive case management, financial education (e.g., budgeting and asset building), temporary financial assistance and workforce training.

Education is the cornerstone for young parents to lead self-sufficient, productive lives now and in the future,” said Mark Furst, president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland. “The United Way Family Center will provide the resources these teen parents need to stay on track while also providing a stable, nurturing and learning environment for their young children— something all parents want for their kids.”

“None of this would be possible without the vision and support of our partners and sponsors,” said Dante de Tablan, executive director of Benjamin Franklin Center for Community Schools. “The parents and children in Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are so grateful and excited, and we share in that excitement! The knowledge, that starting on Thursday, we will be able to change the odds for our infants and toddlers, our students and families, is simply powerful.”

The United Way Family Center is made possible through a collaboration of organizations, including: Baltimore City Public Schools; Benjamin Franklin High School; Benjamin Franklin Center for Community Schools; Greater Homewood Community Corporation, Maryland State Department of Education; PACT; The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Pathway Church of God; PricewaterhouseCoopers; UMB School of Social Work (SWCOS); the Family Health Centers of Baltimore; and Baltimore City Health Department.

To learn more about United Way of Central Maryland’s Family Stability Initiative, visit: www.uwcm.org/family.