With over 9,000 followers on Twitter and 3,000 on Facebook, Princeton resident Cindy Chmielewski, the self-proclaimed “Myeloma Teacher,” is a beacon of hope for many around the world.
In December, she was honored as one of three Multiple Myeloma Heroes by CURE Media Group in New Orleans. Cure Media Group, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2022, is the most widely distributed U.S. publication for cancer patients.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized for something I enjoy doing,” Chmielewski said. “I’m grateful to be among the other amazing people recognized this year. It feels like I’m winning a ‘Teacher of the Year’ award for multiple myeloma instead of 5th grade.”
After receiving a Multiple Myeloma (MM) diagnosis of Stage 3, Chmielewski retired from her 29-year teaching career, but continues her efforts to educate others about MM online. As the curriculum director for HealthTree University for MM, a learning resource for MM patients, Chmielewski actively researches myeloma advances to ensure that the 25-plus courses and hundreds of lessons are kept up to date.
MM is a cancer of plasma cells, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Normal plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system.
MM can cause low blood counts, bone and calcium problems, infections and kidney problems, according to ACS.
“I wish that all cancer patients would know the importance of educating themselves. It’s the only way to get involved in your care,” Chmielewski said. “There’s a lot of people who were like me when I first started treatment. ‘I grew up in the age of doctor knows best,’ so I was scared to offend my doctor by asking too many questions.”
In 2006, Chmielewski began treatment for misdiagnosed degenerative disc disease, which did not help the back pain that she was feeling. In 2008, she was correctly diagnosed with MM and underwent a failed stem cell transplant, forcing her to give up teaching.
As doctors tried different treatments, over the next two years, Chmielewski reached partial remission in her early 50s, and has since been on maintenance therapy treatment.
It was then that Chmielewski began to collect information about MM online. Inspired by an episode of Kathie Lee & Hoda where the two were promoting their Twitter handles, Chmielewski created an account of her own just to follow the two TV stars. But upon searching for ‘myeloma” on Twitter, she discovered a world of myeloma doctors and patients, and started her journey as the “Myeloma Teacher.”
“Some of the best moments I’ve had over the years are the heartwarming direct messages I receive, especially the ones I get from patients from other countries,” Chmielewski. “Most times they’re not from patients themselves, but from their caregivers who don’t have as much access to information or treatment. Connecting them to treatment via Zoom calls, workshops, and conferences is very fulfilling for me.”
Today, Chmielewski continues to share myeloma resources from her home and bring awareness to MM. She dedicates her time to serving on patient advocacy boards and grants committees ,and attends key multiple myeloma conferences nationwide.
“My advice to cancer patients, ‘Take it one day at a time. Don’t look too far ahead, and remember to enjoy life,'” she said.
You can find Cindy’s Myeloma Teacher accounts below: