In honor of Myeloma Awareness Month, we are proud to introduce Marian Sievers, our featured community member for March.
“It’s always easier if a friend helps you.” When Marian heard one of her great-grandchildren say this to his cousin at a recent family party, it stuck in her mind.
“That’s exactly how I feel about the Multiple Myeloma Group,” says Marian, who co-founded the group in 2004 with Gary Diehl. Meetings take place on the second Saturday of each month from 11:00am until 1:00pm at Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara (CSCVVSB) in Westlake Village.
Offered at no cost to patients and loved ones affected by multiple myeloma, the meetings include networking, support, and education around the experience of living with the disease. And it’s an experience Marian knows a lot about. Diagnosed in 2002, Marian has survived her original doctor’s prognosis by more than a decade.
“It’s not an easy journey, and it’s not a journey you can walk alone,” says Marian. “My passion is helping people walk through it.”
Marian met co-founder Gary Diehl at an International Myeloma Foundation seminar and decided to start a group for people in the Conejo Valley living with the disease. “We wanted the group to be a safe place where people could find support, hear from speakers, and learn to be their own best advocate,” says Marian, who appreciates CSCVVSB for giving the group a longtime home. “We have everything we wanted in this spot — a large room for sharing time, smaller rooms for breakout sessions, and a kitchen where everyone can enjoy lunch and get to know each other.”
That “getting to know each other” piece has always been important to the group. “We want people to really connect and to have the freedom to open up when they’re ready,” says Marian. “This is a journey no one can understand unless you’ve walked it. The people who come to the group are all on that same journey.”
Retired after serving as a Head Start educator for 25 years, Marian demonstrates her passion for education by bringing in myeloma specialists to keep the group current on new drug treatments, new drugs being researched, and to answer questions.
“This is a individualized disease, and it’s so important to have a specialist on your healthcare team,” says Marian. “People come from across the country to see some of the specialists in Los Angeles. I feel blessed to have them so close to us and to be able to bring them to the group to help our members.”
A representative from the International Myeloma Foundation also attends the group to provide additional educational resources. “Research and treatment are moving so fast these days, and it’s important to share this information with each other,” says Marian. “It’s also important to tend the whole body, so I bring in speakers to address common side effects, like oral care and ‘chemo brain.'”
The group’s co-founder, Gary Diehl, passed away in 2009, and Marian is committed to carrying on his legacy of support and education. Co-leader Theresa Frank (pictured, right) has been facilitating the group for three years, with Marian handling the educational component. “We are grateful to be here,” says Marian. “This is our privilege.”
“When people come to the group, they find a home where they will be tended to, where they will learn and be comforted and find hope. There is sadness, and we cannot deny that feeling. But there is always hope.”
It’s easier if a friend helps you — especially when that friend possesses the dedication and hopeful spirit of Marian Sievers and her co-leader, Theresa Frank.
CSCVVSB offers support groups, educational programs and mind/body classes and more, all at no cost to participants. Find a full list of programs and events on our calendar page.