Magog cancer march sheds light on little-known blood disease

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When Mario Saucier was asked to be the spokesperson at the 2nd annual Magog Multiple Myeloma March, he was shocked but honoured for the opportunity to represent a community that he joined in 2015.
He was 62 years old when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a life-altering and incurable cancer of the plasma cells. Saucier will be the voice for myeloma patients in Magog and the surrounding area when the march takes place on Sept. 13.
“I was happy to do that because I think it’s important to give back to the community and do something for all I’ve got, you know, it’s a chance for me to give back,” said Saucier.
While the disease upended his life, it hasn’t taken away his spirit, Saucier explained to The Record in a phone interview. A retired businessman, the now 66-year-old Magog resident maintains a busy schedule, despite the blood disease effecting his energy.
Saucier acts as a mentor in an entrepreneurship program in Granby. He also continues to take care of routine maintenance, like yard work, around his home. Every morning when he wakes up, he tells himself it’s going to be a good day; although, tasks might take a little longer now.
“I needed to learn to control my energy and effort, because I’m not able to do as much,” Saucier said. “I often start something and think it’ll be done in two or three hours but I need to tell myself to stop after an hour and continue later.”
The march will look slightly different this year, as the non-profit organization, Myeloma Canada, adjusts to pandemic health and safety measures. It looks different in every province, according to Michelle Oana, director of development and community relations at Myeloma Canada.
“All of the marches in Quebec are taking the same type of walk, so we’re keeping the same day and time but rather than meeting in a public space we’re asking people to map out their own route and doing the walk at the same time,” she said.
People participating in the march will stick to their neighbourhood, or any route of their choosing, and walk the 5 km on their own or with their family. But Saucier took it a step further, committing to walk 100 km in the month leading up to the event.
“I’ve been doing it for almost two years now, walking 100 km per month, and actually I’m already at more than 50 km since Aug. 13,” said Saucier.
When people hear the term multiple myeloma, they often think of melanoma, Oana added. It’s not something people hear about, even though it’s the second most common blood disease, because it’s not a breast, a lung or a kidney, so there’s a lot of work to be done, she continued.
The purpose of the march is to educate Canadians about the incurable cancer and, of course, raise money for research, she said. The myeloma march is relatively young. This is only the 12th iteration of the non-profit’s flagship fundraiser.
The national fundraising goal, according to Oana, is to reach $650,000. In Magog, Saucier said the goal is to reach $12,000. So far, they’ve made close to $9,000. The cause is deeply personal for him. He plans to do everything he can to reach the target fundraising mark.
“It’s not a well-known cancer and it’s not a cancer we see a lot in the population, so for me it’s really important that everyone knows what happens to people when we have that cancer,” Saucier said.

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