I was devastated to learn that another close friend, Jim Byrd, died this week.
I met Jim while speaking to a support group in Columbia, SC. He was interested in helping others by speaking to groups, too, so I helped him get started in Millinnium’s Patient Ambassador program.
Our paths crossed a number of times. A University of South Carolina football fan, Jim and his family drove down to Orlando and we tailgated together prior to the Wisconsin vs South Carolina bowl game last year. He didn’t even gloat when his Gamecocks squeaked by my Badgers, winning the game and sending them home happy.
I was aware that Jim was having a few complications, but his passing came as a shock to me. Their local paper ran an article about Jim and his lovely wife and caregiver, Marion last year. Marion really stepped-up over the years, traveling with Jim and working with caregivers from all across the country.
Jim had a heart of gold. I’ve never met a nicer guy. Jim, you will be missed by so many; I know I’m near the top of that list!
Here is Jim’s obituary, followed by a post I wrote featuring the article in 2013.
Obituary for James Carter Byrd
James Carter Byrd, 56, of Florence, passed away on Saturday, September 20, 2014.
Jim was born on April 5, 1958 in Florence, SC the son of the late C. Carter Byrd and Paula Byrd Busby. He was a graduate of Winthrop College where he was a founding member of the Theta Sigma chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He was co-owner of the Carter Byrd Insurance Agency until he retired. Jim was a selfless advocate for Multiple Myeloma awareness and through his efforts the Florence Multiple Myeloma Support Group was established. He was a true inspiration for patients, caregivers and families.
Surviving are his wife of 18 years, Marion Brooks Byrd; step-son, C.J. Brooks of Lexington; his cherished mother-in-law, Jane Barbour of Pawley’s Island; sisters, Robin Byrd Hatchell of Florence and Lori Byrd Johnson of Mt. Pleasant; brother, Kevin (Tabitha) Byrd of Myrtle Beach; nieces, Addyson Johnson of Charleston and Erienne Byrd of Myrtle Beach; two “family” members, Fatima Scipione of Boston, MA and Susie Duncan of Newport News, VA; numerous close cousins and his Australian Shepherd, Sulley.
A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at a future date. Stoudenmire-Dowling Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements. Please sign the tribute wall for Jim at the obit section of www.stoudenmiredowling.com
Another example of a myeloma survivor giving back
Posted on August 07 2013 by Pat Killingsworth
I met Jim Byrd a year or so ago when I traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to speak to a large group there. A four year survivor, Jim and I have met several times since. He’s a great guy; quiet and determined, yet always wearing just a hint of a smile.
Jim helped get a local support group started in Florence. Here’s an article I ran across about Jim and the group on SCNow.com last month:
More good days in cancer fight
MELISSA ROLLINS, Morning News – July 19, 2013
FLORENCE, S.C. — With cancer, every day counts.
That’s something Jim Byrd knows. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. To complicate matters, he was told that he had multiple myeloma, and he had no idea what that even was.
Doctors said he had six months to live.
Fast forward to 2013, or about 1,430 days later — Byrd is surviving and he’s now created a support group to reach out to others with a myeloma diagnosis in hopes of making their days better.
It took some time for Byrd to come around to the idea. Last year while on vacation, he met someone with International Myeloma Foundation (IMF), who encouraged him to start the group. Byrd felt enough time had passed and he was able to look at the disease more objectively. Not because he had been cured, but because he had lived with it, had ridden the roller coaster of good days and bad days and had stopped reading all the negative information online.
“It is too much emotion initially. There is a time there that it takes to get used to this,” he said.
Byrd also started what he calls the “1,000 Day Initiative.” For every good day he experiences, he makes an origami paper crane and gives it to someone that he meets. His goal is 1,000 good days. Byrd estimates that about 50 percent of his days are “good” and that his goal will take him about eight years.
The support group is not only for people with multiple myeloma but also their spouses and caregivers. Reaching all people affected is important to the Byrds because they know firsthand how scary it can be for everyone, not just the person with the cancer. “What we want to do is outreach to others, especially the newly diagnosed,” Marion Byrd, Jim’s wife, said. “The ones who are afraid, just like all of us were.”
So far, the group is small with around six to eight people coming each month. Each person is at a different stage in their own journey; some have known about their cancer less than two years, while others have had it for a decade. The group offers a chance to discuss treatment options, new drugs and how everyone has been feeling. Mainly, it just helps to have someone else who understands the struggles of a mysterious disease that affects less than 100,000 people and has no known cause or cure.
Byrd hopes his support group can offer more information and support for its members and expand the number of people that they are helping.
Jim reports there were a dozen patients and caregivers at the group’s last meeting. I’m sure it will continue to grow as word gets out. I’m always surprised how many multiple myeloma survivors there are; tucked here and there wherever I go.
Keep up the great work, Jim! Feel good and keep smiling! Pat