Myeloma patients around Triangle react to Colin Powell's passing from COVID complications

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's passing from COVID-19 has drawn the attention of local myeloma patients, the condition which Powell had been treated for over the past few years.

"It makes patients like myself realize that although I am double-vaccinated as he was, that we still have to be cautious about how we interact with others in the neighborhood, in public, or just around family and friends," said Thomas Goode, the Triangle Area Support Group leader for International Myeloma Foundation.

Powell, who was 84 years old, had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, with a spokesperson adding he had been scheduled, but had not received a booster shot at the time of his passing. He also had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Last month, the FDA authorized booster shots for people who received the Pfizer vaccine and were 65 and older, had a condition that put them at high-risk for severe illness, or whose job puts them at high-risk of exposure.

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Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer, which puts patients at high-risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Goode was diagnosed at 34 years old; just 1% of cases are diagnosed in people younger than 35.

"Unfortunately, last year in 2020 I relapsed for a fifth time and I started another daily chemotherapy alongside a monoclonal antibody," said Goode.

Goode said the pandemic has also hampered efforts for support groups to hold in-person meetings.

"Everybody became introverts, which is really hard on my support group. Because we are pretty much all extroverts. And we all meet, and we all get together, and we laugh and joke and smile and love after our meetings. However, with COVID, it pushed us all back in. And it causes some mental health issues," Goode said.

The American Cancer Society reports that about 35,000 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma annually, with the condition impacting men slightly more often than women. Black Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to be diagnosed.

Former ABC11 reporter Ed Crump, who retired after 37 years with the station last month, has smoldering myeloma.

"The fact is that I have a very, very good chance as we've seen over the past three years of crossing the threshold into full-blown multiple myeloma," Crump said.

At this stage, Crump's doctors are continuing to monitor his levels, though he is not undergoing treatment. His mom died of the same cancer, though Crump credits early detection in his case in allowing him to prepare for potential future treatment.

"It made me realize even more why my doctors are being so cautious about me, and asking me to be cautious," Crump said of Powell's passing.

Due to the pandemic, Crump was forced to work from home.

"I don't want to take any chances. I also have asthma and Type 2 diabetes. That combination is not a good one," said Crump.

Last month, he received his booster shot, giving him confidence to slowly venture out of the home more often.

"I still believe completely in the vaccine. I think it's the best route to prevent this, and to help me. I'm so grateful we have it," said Crump.

Both Goode and Crump also pointed to the importance of other mitigation efforts, such as masking, social distancing and hand washing, that play a role in preventing the spread of the virus.

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