Thursday, October 4, 2012

Highlight on Giving: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

For this month's 'Highlight on Giving' feature, I've asked one of my readers Kate Sanders to share a cause that's near and dear to her heart. If you have a cause that you'd like to write about on the blog, please drop me a line through the 'Contact Me' page! With no further ado, Kate's article...


I'll never forget the first thought that ran through my head the day I found out that my grandfather had leukemia: Isn't that something that children get?. I didn't know anything about blood cancers or that there was even such a thing. All I knew was that one of my heroes - a person I deemed indestructible throughout my childhood - now had this horrible disease. When I received the news, I immediately called a friend who just happened to work with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). I knew she could put my mind at ease and give me more information about these types of cancer. I now know that blood cancers affect the entire human population. I call it an "equal opportunity" cancer.

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Strangely enough, that diagnosis altered the course of not only my life, but also my career. Six months after my grandfather's diagnosis, I found myself moving back to my hometown of Augusta, Georgia, and accepting a job with LLS. While working at LLS, I've learned that...

  • Every 4 minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and every 10 minutes, someone loses their battle.
  • Over a million Americans currently live with a blood cancer.
  • Leukemia is the #1 disease killer in children and young adults under the age of 20.
  • Blood cancers are the #3 cancer killers in North America. Only cancers of the respiratory and digestive systems are more deadly.

I'm proud to report that 78.1% of every dollar that LLS raises goes directly towards our mission: to cure leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, Hodgkin's disease and other blood cancers AND to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Blood cancers are almost never preventable, so we focus on finding better treatment options and ultimately, a cure. Just last year, over $76 million was invested in blood cancer research. The blood cancer research that is being conducted all over the world through LLS grants and through our Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP) is changing the way we treat cancer every day. We are in a very exciting time!

Fifty cancer drugs have been approved since 2000. Of those 50, 21 were approved to treat one or more blood cancers (and LLS helped to advance most of them!). About half of these drugs are now being tested to treat other types of cancer and even autoimmune diseases.

In addition to funding research, LLS funds patient service programs and offers co-pay assistance and other financial assistance to blood cancer patients. This year, LLS was able to provide patients with over $44 million in co-pay assistance, providing financial relief for medication co-pays and other insurance related expenses.

Asking people to donate is a hard thing to do, especially with the economy the way it is right now. Considering this, the overwhelming amount of support for LLS coming from my local community over the past three years has been nothing short of astonishing. It's humbling to be part of a community of resilient people who come together to fight for the cause.

On September 22nd, over 2,200 people gathered together for our local Light The Night Walk in Augusta, Georgia. This year was especially difficult for many of us because a few of our veteran teams are now walking in memory of the person that they were formerly walking with. One such team was walking in memory of our 2011 Light The Night Honored Patient, a local 18-year-old boy who lost his 10 year battle to leukemia in July. This young man and his mother were the first patient family that I met when I started the job, and he is one of the people I refer to as "my kids", the pediatric patients who I have become attached to. To say his death was devastating for me and our local LLS family would be a gross understatement. I want to take this moment to publicly thank him and his mother (along with all the other patients who I have had the privilege to work with) for being examples of how to live my life and how to love.

Of all the things I've learned in this job - statistics, survival rates and treatment protocols - the one thing that is truly immeasurable is the human spirit and our ability to fight and rise up from insurmountable odds. I came into this job hoping to leave my small footprint on the path to a cure and to help change the lives of patients battling these diseases. Instead, it is much more likely that MY life has been forever altered by these people. For that, I will be forever grateful.

If you would like to donate to my Light The Night page, click here.

And most importantly, I am happy to report that my grandfather completed his chemotherapy (even receiving a drug that LLS helped to fund!), and he is currently in remission. He is living proof that there is hope for those dealing with blood cancers.

For more information on blood cancers, please visit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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