When he was first diagnosed with myeloma, Alan Martins traveled 3,938 miles to Little Rock from his home in Hawaii every three months for his care. The 73-year old has been a patient at the UAMS Myeloma Center since 2013, when he came to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for a second opinion.
“I did a lot of research, and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) just stood out from all the other programs and seemed to have the best outcomes,” said Martins, a lifelong resident of Hilo, Hawaii. “And I want the best for the rest of my life how ever long it is.”
He first visited UAMS after an oncologist at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu noted that his markers showed high protein and recommended that he come to Little Rock for a second opinion.
He originally needed no treatment but visited the Myeloma Center every three months so his physician could watch his markers.
“I told him I’ll meet you halfway, I’ll come here to see you, and you do what you do best,” Martins said recently.
Martins was diagnosed with low-risk myeloma in 2018 and takes an infusion treatment once a month back home in Hilo, where his physician, Anthony DeSalvo, M.D., of the North Hawaii Community Hospital, works closely with Sharmilan Thanendrarajan, M.D., at the Myeloma Center.
Martins is now close to remission and sees Thanendrarajan every six months.
“With the time difference, I really appreciate all the other employees here like the infusion center and phone nurses.”
Throughout his journey with myeloma, Martins has taken an active role in his care and the decision-making process.
“I’ve always done whatever it takes to keep a close eye on my condition so that I can watch my family grow,” he said.
That family includes his wife Alecia and his daughter Crystal Momilani, both of whom traveled with him to UAMS. When they couldn’t get a connecting flight out of Las Vegas, his daughter had a solution.
“My daughter said, ‘We’re driving!’ so we rented a car and she drove us, arriving the night before the appointment. We were tired but we got here,” he said.
Martins has three other children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
In an unexpected turn of events, his sister Peggy Martins, 68, who also lives in Hilo, was diagnosed with myeloma in June 2021.
“When Alan had his follow-up visit with Dr. Thanendrarajan last spring, he brought my markers to show him and the doctor said, ‘Your sister is very, very sick and needs to be treated right away,’ said Peggy Martins, a retired restaurant hostess.
This past October, she traveled to Little Rock with her brother, where she was admitted to the hospital. By early November, she was harvesting stem cells for a transplant.
“I think anyone diagnosed with multiple myeloma should come to the UAMS Myeloma Center if they want the very best treatment and cutting-edge therapies available,” Alan Martins said.
For him, the quality of care he gets in Arkansas is worth every second of the 12-hour flight from Hawaii.
“The folks at the Myeloma Center know what they are doing,” Alan Martins said. “Everyone here is so good at what they do.”