A Challenging yet Rewarding Journey Towards a Myeloma Cure

Ultra-marathoner Eric Gelber is raising awareness and funds for research

After 56 hours of running, New York City businessman and ultramarathoner Eric Gelber realized he was barely moving. It was his second attempt to run 200 miles around Central Park to raise awareness and funds for research towards a myeloma cure, and the last 2.5 miles took four hours to complete. At that pace, he’d be running for another 24 hours.1

After 176 miles in two and a half days, he was done. Although the effort beat the 164 miles he ran during his first attempt the previous year and raised $240,000 for myeloma research, Gelber felt defeated. “I feel like I failed,” Gelber admitted. “But I know that no one else feels that way.”2

So to commemorate this year’s Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Gelber is making one last attempt to run 200 miles around Central Park and raise an additional $250,000 for myeloma research during September 16-18, 2016. Hitting that goal will put him past $1 million in total money raised on behalf of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), an organization whose sole mission is finding a cure, since his efforts began nearly a decade ago.3

 

In 2007, Gelber’s long-time family friend Anita Sorrell received a stem cell transplant as part of her treatment for multiple myeloma, a rare cancer of plasma cells that help our bodies fight infection. The disease can lead to low blood counts, bone and kidney damage and infections. While advances in our understanding of the disease have lead to progress in treating myeloma over the past decade, a cure has remained elusive.4 “Although the disease affected her physically, it never dampened her spirit,” Gelber recalled.5

Gelber wanted to support his friend during her journey with myeloma. He signed up for the New York City Marathon that year to raise money for the MMRF. He raised over $6,000 in that first effort.6

She told me that when she wore the medal, she felt the meds going straight into her veins. That motivated me to do more.

After the marathon, he gave Sorrell his medal. She carried it around everywhere in her purse and wore it during her chemotherapy treatments. “She told me that when she wore the medal, she felt the meds going straight into her veins. That motivated me to do more.”7

He realized that by running ultramarathons—races longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles—more people donated, and previous donors gave more. A 2011 155-mile solo run in the Catskill Mountains in New York raised $35,000. A year later, he competed in the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race from Death Valley to Mount Whitney in California, and raised $65,000.8

With every mile, Eric has taken strides to raise greater awareness and funds in the hopes of finding a cure for myeloma. By fundraising that drives research through the MMRF, Eric feels he is doing all he can to support patients and find the quickest way to a cure.

In 2012, Sorrell lost her battle with myeloma. Devastated by the loss, Gelber’s resolve to help find a cure was strengthened. He decided to bring his efforts to New York City where more people could see and participate. That’s when the idea for “The Journey Towards a Cure,” 200-mile ultramarathon, was born.9

 

Myeloma patient Pam gives Eric Gelber a hug

MYELOMA PATIENT PAM GIVES ERIC GELBER A HUG DURING HIS 2014 ATTEMPT TO RUN 200 MILES AROUND CENTRAL PARK. SHE FLEW FROM THE MIDWEST TO NEW YORK TO SUPPORT THE EVENT THAT RAISED FUNDS TOWARDS A MYELOMA CURE. SOURCE: MULTIPLE MYELOMA RESEARCH FOUNDATION

While exhausting, the first two attempts have been very rewarding for Gelber beyond the funds and awareness raised. During the runs, he has met people living with myeloma who come out just to shake his hand, thank him or run a lap with him. They tell him that his endeavors give them hope.10

Gelber is looking forward to seeing their familiar faces and new ones during his third and final attempt this month. He knows that it may be his most challenging yet. It will be his first ultramarathon after undergoing hip surgery last December.11

“People ask me about the parallels between what I do and those fighting cancer. That’s one I struggle with because I have a choice. They don’t,” he said. “People have good and bad days. You have to get up and fight.”12

To find out how you can support Gelber’s final attempt by signing up to run a mile with him, cheering him on or donating to the cause, visit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s website.13

 

1 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

2 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

3 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

4 What is multiple myeloma. American Cancer Society. January 2016.  http://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiplemyeloma/detailedguide/multiple-myeloma-what-is-multiple-myeloma Accessed September 8, 2016.

5 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

6 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

7 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

8 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

9 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

10 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

11 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

12 Interview with Eric Gelber, August 2016, conducted by Debbie Kaplan for Celgene.com.

13 Support Eric Gelber’s 200 mile run through Central Park to fund multiple myeloma research.

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. https://www.themmrf.org/thejourney/ Accessed September 8, 2016.