Incurable blood cancer changes Oakville man’s life; he joins Mississauga march for cure

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Published September 12, 2023 at 11:37 am

gerry perrott
Gerry Perrott, with his wife, Bernice, rings the cancer bell after completing a year long clinical trial.

Given just five years to live after an incurable blood cancer diagnosis, an Oakville man’s life changed forever.

But now, nearly 15 years later, he is walking for a cure in the Mississauga Multiple Myeloma March.

In late 2008, Oakville resident and retired entrepreneur Gerry Perrott started to feel unwell and was grappling with dizziness while on a trip in New York City.

At first, Perrott didn’t think it was anything too serious and wasn’t too concerned. But as his symptoms persisted throughout the winter months, he made an appointment with his doctor in April 2009.

Suspecting he may have multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that forms in the white blood cells, the doctor immediately referred him to an oncologist and Perrott, then 63 years old, underwent a series of specialized tests.

Shortly after, Perrott’s worst fear came true: his myeloma diagnosis was confirmed.

“I was stunned; I had absolutely no idea what multiple myeloma was,” Perrott said in a press release for the Mississauga walk. “From that moment, I understood that the trajectory of my life would never be the same. I recognized the need to embrace a new way of living.”

Like many people, he had never heard of it, despite it being the second most common form of blood cancer.

Although it is not well known, 11 Canadians are diagnosed with multiple myeloma every day, according to Myeloma Canada.

Myeloma is associated with the uncontrolled growth of a type of white blood cell – the plasma cell. Plasma cells are made in the bone marrow – the spongy tissue found inside bones – and are an important component of the body’s immune system because they produce antibodies.

By the time Perrott was diagnosed, the myeloma had already progressed significantly.

“The cancer was eating away at my bones; I actually had a large hole in my femur,” he said.

He was also told he had an uncommon and aggressive variant of myeloma– T414. The prognosis shared with him was devastating; he likely had just five years to live.

Perrott immediately began a treatment regimen involving radiation and chemotherapy to help control the disease.

Then, in December 2009, he got hopeful news — he qualified for a one-year clinical trial – tailored to patients with the T414 mutation.

And as luck would have it, his body responded extremely well to the treatment; he was finally in remission.

But sadly, three years later in the spring of 2013, Perrott relapsed. Doctors recommended a stem cell transplant, a potentially life-prolonging procedure that is often effective in controlling myeloma.

In September 2013, he underwent the procedure, and a few months later, he learned it was a success. Since then, Perrott has been in remission, and he is currently responding well to a maintenance therapy.

Perrott credits his good fortune to, not only for the life-saving drug therapies he was fortunate to have access to, but also to the love and support of his wife of 52 years, Bernice, their two daughters, and three granddaughters.

He has eased into a comfortable routine that has given him a sense of normalcy and hope.

“I am so blessed to have such a supportive family and group of friends,” Perrott said. “I could not survive the treatments and daily challenges without them.”

Perrott and his wife have poured their energy into helping other patients and families living with myeloma by co-leading the Halton-Peel Myeloma support group.

Today, nearly 15 years since his diagnosis, Perrott has far exceeded his doctor’s expectations, and is continuing his fight against myeloma.

“When I was first diagnosed, I was given five years to live. Thanks to incredible advances in research, I’m living longer than I was supposed to,” he said.

Eager to give back to the community and do their part in finding a cure for myeloma, Gerry and Bernice Perrott, along with family and friends, will join the Mississauga Multiple Myeloma March.

“We’re quite literally marching for our lives,” said Perrott. “The fear of the unknown can really play games with your mind, but I take it one day at a time and maintain a positive attitude.”

Receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, at any age, really puts things into perspective. I’m just grateful to be alive and do the things I love, like travelling and spending time outdoors with family.”

Funds raised through the Multiple Myeloma March are invested in curing and preventing myeloma through Canadian research, accelerating equitable access to the best healthcare and treatments, and improving lives by empowering and supporting all Canadians impacted by myeloma.

The Mississauga Myeloma March is on Sept. 23 at 9 a.m., at Meadowvale Community Centre, 6655 Glen Erin Dr.

To donate or for more information on how to join see the Mississauga Multiple Myeloma March webpage.

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