Kirk Wilkerson first started running when his brother dared him to participate in a 5k. Now, three years after his first marathon and his diagnosis, the 50-year-old just completed his third marathon, which is likely his most memorable.
Wilkerson tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he was diagnosed with Smoldering Multiple Myeloma on May 3, 2016, just one month after finishing his first 26.2 mile race in Knoxville, Tn.
“Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in your bone marrow. There is no cure. It becomes fatal as the bones leech calcium into the blood stream and other organs begin to fail,” Wilkerson says. “Mine was detected in a life insurance exam.”
The diagnosis was undoubtedly life-changing for Wilkerson, as was being introduced to expert oncologist Dr. Saad Usmani, who put Wilkerson into a two-year clinical trial for newly-diagnosed patients. As of August 2018, Wilkerson’s cancer markers are so low that he no longer has to receive treatment.
But beyond just seeing Usmani for his appointments and treatment, Wilkerson and his oncologist have continued their relationship by becoming partners in a number of physical endeavors to benefit charitable causes.
“Last year we trekked to Mt Everest Base Camp together in Nepal as a fundraiser for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF),” Wilkerson explains. “Then this year I suggested we do Boston for the same organization. It was his first marathon and my 3rd.”
Wilkerson posted a number of photos and videos to his Facebook page where he reflected on the incredible experience of running the Boston marathon, and even live-streamed from multiple parts of the course, including the finish line.
But while Wilkerson is thanking many people for their support, he also recognizes how he’s helped others by representing those with multiple myeloma as he conquers these feats.
“We have had several people reach out and tell of how their friend or family has or had MM and how much our efforts mean,” Wilkerson shares. “It really gives you a sense of carrying the load for others. Which are the thoughts that get you through such a hard race.”
As for what’s next for himself and Usmani, Wilkerson isn’t sure. What he does know though is that they’ve become lifelong friends.
“He is like my brother. Which is interesting consider that he is from Pakistan and Muslim. And I am from a small southern town and Christian. It’s crazy how this disease has brought us together and so close from two different worlds,” Wilkerson says. “To me, it’s just proof that kindness, humility, and Grace crosses all lines. To do this together meant the world to me.”
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