August 10, 2018
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  • Pasadena native Laura English is looking to the community for help as she fundraises for her multiple myeloma treatment.
    Photo Provided
    Pasadena native Laura English is looking to the community for help as she fundraises for her multiple myeloma treatment.
  • Pasadena native Laura English is looking to the community for help as she fundraises for her multiple myeloma treatment.
    Photo Provided
    Pasadena native Laura English is looking to the community for help as she fundraises for her multiple myeloma treatment.
  • While in and out of the hospital to treat her multiple myeloma, Pasadena native Laura English has relied on her son Everett, 20, to help take care of her.
    Photo Provided
    While in and out of the hospital to treat her multiple myeloma, Pasadena native Laura English has relied on her son Everett, 20, to help take care of her.

Pasadena Native Fundraises For Stem Cell Transplant

Maya Pottiger
Maya Pottiger's picture
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July 10, 2018

Laura English had been healthy her whole life, so when she had persistent back pain, she knew something was up.

During multiple visits, the doctors insisted English was fine: She had a herniated disk or pulled muscle. But the pain wouldn’t go away, so English pushed back.

“The key for people to take away is you have to listen to your body,” English said. “They never took the initiative to do that next step until I pushed them. I was the one who really pushed the doctors to do additional testing [and] insisted that they not quit.”

She expected to be faced with back surgery but learned she had something far more serious: multiple myeloma.

The “New Normal”

The cancer begins in the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system. Over time, myeloma cells collect in the bone marrow and solid parts of the bone, which incites bone pain in mostly the spine and ribs.

English’s white blood cell count is too high, her bones are fragile, and she will likely have back pain for the rest of her life. One time, English sneezed and broke a rib, which put her back in the hospital.

“Everybody says, ‘You look fine,’” English said. “I do look fine, and I really try to portray that strong character. Inside, I’m in pain.”

English has a “new normal” now. She can no longer walk long distances without stopping to rest. She gets winded walking up stairs. She used to be 5 foot, 9 inches but is now 5 foot, 3 inches due to a curvature in her spine. She can’t see out of the peephole in her door, and she had to buy new pants as all of hers were too long.

“I’m Always Going To Have Cancer.”

Now, English is set to undergo a stem cell transplant. The transplant can treat multiple myeloma by restoring bone marrow with healthy cells, which will help stimulate new bone marrow growth and restore the immune system.

The transplant won’t cure her, but it will keep the cancer dormant for a while.

“I’m always going to have cancer,” English said. “It’s lying dormant, and it’s something that will become active again, and I’ll have to face it all over again.”

Through it all, English said it’s important to keep a positive mindset — though it’s not always easy.

“There have been days where I’ve been in excruciating pain and haven’t been able to work. Those days, you do sort of get down, but you have to spin that attitude. You have to say, ‘OK, this is going to pass,’ and it does,” English said. “Then you pick up the pieces and move forward again. You’re the only one who can control your situation. The doctors can help, but you’re in control. You’re the driver.”

Since being diagnosed in November 2017, English has been taking photos and documenting her journey. She plans to start a blog to share her experience with others and help raise awareness.

Medical Expenses

Meanwhile, English has hosted two fundraisers in the community to help pay for her stem cell transplant. The first fundraiser was a barbecue at Hideaway, and the second was a rubber ducky race and vendor fair at Fairwood Swim Club.

A friend of English’s daughter set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for medical expense.

After the stem cell transplant, English will need three months to recover, so her next fundraiser is set for Halloween. She is partnering with the Face Paint Lady, Michelle Johnson, and the location is not yet determined.

“Everyone has rallied behind me and supported me,” English, a Pasadena native, said of the community. “Just putting flyers up in the local stores, people have reached out and [helped].”

English has also received help from local organizations. Donations From The Heart has helped cover some of her medical costs, and Zaching Against Cancer put a chairlift in her house when it became too painful to walk up and down the stairs.

Looking Ahead

She is now focusing on the stem cell transplant. Once she starts feeling better, English said she will renew her efforts to raise awareness about multiple myeloma.

“It is definitely a mindset,” English said. “I’m not going to let this cancer beat me.”


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