WESTFIELD, NJ – Gina Klemm’s older brother Frank Guarino was an avid runner who competed on the track team in high school and completed marathons as an adult. Several years ago, when Guarino began experiencing aches in his joints, it was at first chalked up to normal wear and tear from running.
Eventually, Guarino, who spent part of his childhood in Westfield, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Eighteen months later, in December of 2012, he died. Guarino was 51.
“My brother’s was, it’s so hard, very advanced,” Klemm said recently.
In honor of her brother and others who have battled multiple myeloma, Klemm joined with myeloma survivor Sheree Pask and her husband Ron, to organize the Miracles for Myeloma 5K Run/Walk in partnership with the International Myeloma Foundation. The second annual run will be held on September 27 at Oak Ridge Park in Clark.
It’s the only run dedicated to raising awareness of multiple myeloma in New Jersey, according to organizers. Last year, the inaugural walk raised more than $50,000 for research and drew about 400 runners.
“It was a very healing event for my family,” said Klemm, who lives in Westfield with her husband and two daughters.
The registration fee for adults is $25 until Sept. 1, and $30 from Sept. 1 through Sept. 26. The cost for children under 12 is $15. To register, visit the race website at http://myeloma.donordrive.com/event/miraclesformyeloma. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who wish to purchase a placard for a remembrance path along the course can do so by visiting the website for details as well.
Multiple myeloma is a rare form of cancer that affects the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in bone marrow. Some patients experience symptoms before diagnosis, but others do not.
“I actually found out through a regular physical,” said Sheree Pask, recalling that routine bloodwork revealed multiple myeloma in 2007.
After chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants, she says she is in "near complete remission" but still sees a doctor every three months for monitoring.
Being diagnosed with such a rare disease left Pask feeling isolated. She hopes the race will help others struggling with multiple myeloma to find support.
“I feel like we’ve reached so many people through this walk,” said Pask, who lives in Clark and is a preschool teacher at the Presbyterian Nursery School in Westfield.
Sheree and Ron Pask’s son, Matt, is teacher at Franklin Elementary School, where he plans to gather a team for the run, the couple said.
In addition, Dr. Mecide Gharibo, a myeloma specialist at Rutgers Cancer Institute, will be on hand at the event to educate participants about the disease.