Kimberly Alexander (left) poses with Elijah (courtesy photo)
Elijah Alexander was able to live out his aspiration and played for nine years in the NFL. He was also able to marry his wife, Kimberly Alexander and have two children.
“I felt like Elijah was living his fairytale,” Kimberly said. “There he was, the kid that always wanted to be in the NFL and he grew up and made it to the NFL.”
For years, he noticed that he was having pain in his feet. He went to several doctors about it and many dismissed the issue; some even said the pain was wear and tear from playing football. After getting a blood screening from a physician while traveling, Elijah learned the ailment had to be taken seriously.
“It was actually a trip to Costa Rica, when he got sick on a flight and when he landed, a physician was brought into his hotel,” Kimberly said. “The physician in Costa Rica was the one who ran tests and told him that his protein levels were too high and he needed to get back to the United States.”
Elijah was soon diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow and white blood cells. Kimberly began tending to Elijah, who battled cancer for five years.
Since Elijah passed away in 2010, Kimberly became an advocate for and supported many cancer-related organizations to continue to raise mindfulness and find cures.
“It’s such a confusing disease,” Kimberly said about multiple myeloma. “There’s no rhyme or reason as to why it happens.”
Kimberly is on the board of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and works with Standing in the GAAP, an organization that helps African Americans afflicted with Multiple Myeloma find proper care methods.
Kimberly continued to spread her story with her book “Fairytales, Fate, and Fortitude” which accounts her family’s experiences as Elijah battled the disease. Kimberly noted how she did not want readers to believe that their journey will be similar to Elijah’s and how treatments have advanced since that time.
“The toughest part of the book by far was having to reflect on what happened when it came to me having to explain to my sons what was going on with their dad,” Kimberly said. “Overall, I’m glad I did it, I’m glad it’s out there.”
Elijah also created a foundation called Tackle Myeloma Foundation to aide children with cancer. During his time in the hospital, Elijah was a neighbor to young cancer patients, according to Kimberly.
“He wanted to do something to help cancer patients, not only just myeloma patients, but also kids who have cancer,” she said.
Multiple Myeloma weakens bones and causes kidney problems. There is no cure for the disease, but there are treatments that can possibly put the cancer in remission. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease as White Americans.
When African Americans are diagnosed, however, it is more likely to be a less aggressive form of the disease than the form White Americans are diagnosed with.
Early detection gives the patient a better outlook; Standing in the GAAP works to expose African Americans to treatments such as stem cell transplants and clinical trials.
“It’s the blood cancer that affects us more than any other, yet and still many of us don’t know anything about the disease and there’s been so many discrepancies found,” Kimberly said. “If us sharing our story helps them think about something that makes things a little bit easier for them, then to me, it means it was worth it.”