ESF’s ENDURING ATHLETE OF THE MONTH – APRIL
By Pete Williams
Arnie Goodman and friend
Five years ago, Arnie Goodman was at the top of his game. At 47, he had a thriving practice as an ear, nose, and throat physician. Married and a father of two, he threw himself into endurance sports, especially cycling, swimming, and kayaking.
But something didn’t seem quite right. He became out of breath quickly while working out with his Saturday morning training group. Colleagues he always outran now were blowing by.
Test revealed multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. Multiple myeloma accounts for just 1 percent of cancer cases but has claimed the lives of a number of prominent Americans, including Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, syndicated advice columnist Ann Landers and, more recently, former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.
Goodman has written extensively about the disease online and in 2009 created the “Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure,” which began as a 5-mile kayak race and a 2-mile fun paddle through downtown Tampa. That year, just one stand-up paddle boarder entered. This year, the Tampa physician, now 52, expects SUP enthusiasts to outnumber kayakers. All proceeds go toward the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Goodman has undergone two stem cell transplants, including one at the end of 2010 following a relapse. He’s gradually getting back to a normal workout regimen. The longtime kayaker hopes to become proficient in stand-up paddle boarding this year.
Endurance Sports Florida talked with Goodman about his fight and the upcoming Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure, which begins from Riverfront Park in downtown Tampa on Saturday, May 7 at 8:30 a.m.
Q: What went through your mind when you got the diagnosis of multiple myeloma?
A: It was a shock. I was always a fitness nut who ate very healthy. I kept myself in pretty good shape and was always a big believer in fitness and nutrition before I was diagnosed. The last thing you think is you’re going to get cancer and friends said I was the last person they would expect to get it. So I did all the right things and still go it, which shows that if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone.
Q: What’s happening in your body when you have multiple myeloma?
A: Basically in your blood you have plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells that produce the antibodies that fight infection. Multiple myeloma is a cancer of those cells. One of those cells goes crazy and overproduces, initially in the bone marrow, creating these holes and lesions which create fractures, cause anemia and compromise the immune system. There’s no cure, unfortunately, but it is treatable and there have been huge advances in the last five or 10 years. People are living much longer than before, but unfortunately it’s not a curable cancer. All the money for our event goes to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and they’re laser-focused on new drug development for multiple myeloma and have been tremendously successful at bringing new drugs to market and prolonging life for people with the disease.
Q: You’ve undergone two stem cell transplants. What’s entailed with that procedure?
A: It’s actually more of a transfusion where your own cells are harvested. You’re given a medication to stimulate the stem cells, which are then harvested by an intravenous catheter. You’re given high doses of chemotherapy, which wipes out the bone marrow and immune system. The stem cells are given back to you and those are used to jumpstart your bone marrow again. The problem is that there’s a period of 10 days to two weeks after the chemotherapy where you’re waiting for the stem cells to take where you have no immune system at all. So you’re really prone to infection and have to be in the hospital pretty much all that time.
Goodman out on the water
Q: How much training have you been able to do?
A: I went through the most recent transplant over Christmas and by the end of January I got back to working out. I’ve been slowing building up from there, back to swimming and cycling, almost to where I was before. I’m doing really good and getting back to normal life and a normal activity level. I do have some pain in my ribs but I don’t seem to feel it when I’m cycling. I do make sure to stick with calmer water when I kayak.
Q: The race is for a great cause but it seems like it’s popular for other reasons. Why do you think that is?
A: People love the course. It’s a great way to see downtown Tampa from the water. The college and high school crew teams have known about it for years. The course takes you through downtown Tampa, the convention center, Marriott Waterside, and Harbor Island. It really highlights downtown Tampa. We also reach out to all kinds of paddlers from the serious kayak and paddle boarders to those who have never paddled and, of course, those who have a connection to multiple myeloma. The reason we have two races is so there’s something for the competitive people – a five-mile race – and a two-mile family fun paddle for those with little or no experience. We have rental boats and boards available so that’s no a barrier either.
Q: What’s the status of multiple myeloma research?
A: The pipeline of drugs for the disease is unbelievable. There are no less than a dozen drugs in the pipeline; a couple will get FDA approved this year. They just mapped the genome for multiple myeloma within the last month or two. The future looks great and I’m just hoping it comes soon enough.