Tuesday, March 18th – We Meet Again

Guest Post by Brian Leigh, AML Survivor and LLS Volunteer: TNT alumni, Man & Woman of the Year Class of ’10 and Light The Night Walker 

JoshBrianLB12

Hello again Tuesday, March 18th. It sure has been a while. 6 years? Wow! My, oh my, how time flies. What’s up with you?

Not too much has changed in my life. I live in the same place, work at the same job, still looking for that right (not the same) girl. So… you know, the same old same old. Oh, I got a new car! It was kind of a while ago, but it was after we split, so it’s news to you. So that’s cool.

Let’s see… what else?

You gave me something the last time I saw you, didn’t you?

What was it?

Oh yeah! Last time I saw you, you brought my leukemia diagnosis. I guess I never got a chance to ‘thank’ you for that one. So… yeah.

You took my d7q chromosome and replaced it with 90% BLASTS! BLASTS sure do sound like a lot of fun – kind of remind me of fireworks – but don’t let the name fool you. They’re not very cool. They overstayed their welcome, so I had to eradicate them. I hope you don’t mind. I mean, next time maybe rethink that gift. K?

DrPorterBrianRock3yrsAug2012

You took my health and replaced it with new and exciting things like neutropenia so I couldn’t eat and drink what I wanted to. You gave me nausea so I got sick at some key inopportune times, like on a date and at a 
friend’s wedding. You gave me anemia so I didn’t have the energy for a “normal” life.

You took my innocence (or what was left of it) and replaced it with an experience that I wish upon no one else. Ever.

Last time we met, you took a lot of things from me. But there’s so much more that you could never take away. My spirit, strength, hope, courage, and control. You never took any of these! I’ll retain control of my life, (thank) you very much!

For everything you took away, I gained even more. For every word that chemo brain temporarily removed from my vocabulary, I learned new words like remission, survive, recovery, and Relentless.

I had to eradicate the BLASTS from my life, but thankfully I never had to eradicate any relationships. In fact, I made plenty of new friendships, which is more than I can say for other friends in similar situations. So I guess I’m kind of lucky in that respect.

Existing friendships were strengthened through visits and walks. New friendships were forged in support groups and with my medical team. Eventually, I reached out and made some awesome friends while volunteering, advocating, and fund raising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. These are some of the friendships that you read about. The “life-long” friendships that had only ever happened to me through college, high school football, actual life-long friends, and those occasional friends where everything just clicks. I now find myself with more of these friends, who are always good for a perfectly timed playlist, always know the right words for motivation, and are always willing to offer up the “here’s how I can help”. We’re all Relentless. We all just click.

The “gift” you brought me last Tuesday March 18th didn’t last too long. I beat the leukemia. I persevered through the neutropenic diets. I laughed (and slept) through the nausea. And I walked through the anemia.

6 years, eh? Yeah.  I’ve made tremendous personal growth. I went from zero to 5k to half marathon to full marathon with some of my best friends by my side (literally!). I’ve personally helped raise more than $42,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. So what? It’s just a dollar amount, right? Well I hope that the personal connections that I’ve made on top of that fund raising makes an even bigger impact on improving the quality of life for those living with cancer than the money ever could. The visits, talks, laughs, dinners, drinks, casino nights, pizza parties, concerts, and all of the undefinable in between.

BrianDadJoshMWOY201Gala                BrianRNRFull2013

6 years of surprises. 6 years of changes. But I’m not done yet with making changes. Neither is The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I look forward to continuing my involvement with LLS to bring new treatments & new cures as quickly as possible to those fighting not only blood cancers, but all cancer.

See you next time Tuesday March 18th. Let’s see what each of us can do by 2025!

Cheers,

Brian Leigh

National Pancake Day In The Eyes Of Our Patient Hero Family

By Tawanna Browne.

This post appeared first on Mom’s Guide To Travel, under the title “Social Good: IHOP’s National Pancake Day More Than Just Free Pancakes

AsadPoster           money into box      Beth Gorman & Volunteers

Today while I was in the kitchen, my son Asad requested pancakes loud and clear. I think he was reminiscing about the fun morning he had yesterday at IHOP’s National Pancake Day, being celebrated as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Honored Hero.

Mother Nature

Months of planning and emailing lead up to National Pancake Day. Initially, we were worried that the day might be a bust because of the snow. However, the weather proved to be a gift. Many kids, including my own, had a snow day. This allowed droves of families and out-of-school teenagers an opportunity to cram into IHOP reception areas and wait for their stack of free pancakes. Overall, I think the day turned out to be a roaring success.

Autism and Leukemia

Our morning started early and was a fun-filled few hours of Asad being in the spotlight. The funny thing about it all was that he was the least bit phased. Most, if not all of the employees at the Rockville IHOP, where we celebrated National Pancake Day, were oblivious to the fact that Asad also deals with autism, in addition to the leukemia. In the end, I guess none of that really mattered.

Once Asad settled down from the initial onslaught of the crowd, noise, and attention, an overwhelming experience for a child with autism, he was able to find his groove. The stack of warm buttery pancakes dripping with syrup – a diet detour for my gluten free kids – was the vehicle that got him to his happy place.

A Celebration

National Pancake Day is not only a fundraising event for organizations like LLS but also a celebration of children like Asad, a celebration of life and survival with a disease that claims so many lives.

Breakfast at IHOP was one big party – a birthday party for my little Lion, filled with hundreds of guests, birthday cake, smiling faces, cameras, dozens of presents, and best of all, pancakes

Asad and his brother loved the day – a second birthday, a second chance to smile, to forget about drugs, forget about hospitals, forget about needles, and just be a kid.

The Cake   Gifts

Gratitude

It’s so much easier to be a giver. I’ve learned that Humility requires strength and is an honorable trait. It allows you to graciously be on the receiving end of social good.

Our waitress Gayle had a big heart.IHOPWaitress

We, his parents, are humbled once again by the kindness of strangers. We are forever grateful for his “second day”, the celebration of life and survival. And most of all, we are grateful for the gifts of love, compassion, and pancakes.

About Tawanna Browne:  Travel Expert-at-Large for 10Best USA TODAY, and family travel contributor to the TravelChannel.com, she loves exploring the world with and without kids. Along the way she help families with strategies to take away some of the stress of family travels. Visit www.momsguidetotravel.com     for more. 

Running with Team In Training

MelissaGuest post by Melissa Dentch

I’ve been a runner for close to 15 years. I started with high school track, continued through college, and more recently have become someone who always seems to be training for some upcoming race. I’ve done half marathons, triathlons, 10 milers and countless other races. But I’ve never tackled a full marathon. 26.2 just never seemed liked something I could do. Until recently.

Over the past few years my complete aversion to a marathon slowly gave way to an inkling that maybe I could actually do it. And that inkling slowly grew into hesitant conversations with friends who had run marathons. Then research about local races. And finally the last push: watching my sister, her friends and 45,000 other athletes run the New York City Marathon in November. All types of people were running that race, and actually seemed to be enjoying it. All of a sudden I wanted in. The next week, I signed up for Shamrock with Team in Training, and I haven’t looked back since.

There’s one mantra I’ve come to rely on throughout my training: Marathons don’t run themselves. There are plenty of days I don’t want to get myself out of bed, put on my running shoes and get out the door. But marathons don’t run themselves. I may not be a marathoner yet, but I’ve done enough races to know that every mile I put in now will make Shamrock that much easier in March.

Over the past few weeks, my mantra has taken on a new meaning. Running with the Team means that you have such a phenomenal support group built in. Whether it’s the mentors who staff a water stop on a 15 degree day, the teammates who commiserate with you at mile nine, or the coaches who run you in the last two miles of a particularly challenging long run, you’re never alone for too long. And then there are my friends and family who support me, financially and emotionally, in my goal to run 26.2 miles and raise $2,000 for the fight against blood cancer.

And most importantly, there are the patients. Close to 1 million people in America fight this disease every day, regardless of who they or where they are in their lives. Thinking about people like Rett, who beat ALL at 5, or Rob, who endured a successful bone marrow transplant at 65 definitely puts things in perspective on a long run. If they can beat these diseases, I can certainly get through a few more miles, and ask for a few more donations. That’s the only way we’re going to continue funding the life-saving research that LLS is doing, and the only way we’ll keep hearing more success stories.

If you want to read more about my season with TNT (including a recent run where my eyelashes froze), please click here. While you’re there, please consider joining me in this fight and making a donation.

Melissa Dentch is a Campaign Manager for Light the Night and is currently training for the Shamrock Marathon with Team In Training

LLS NAT CAP: IN THE NEWS

As January comes to close we have three more stories highlighting LLS Nat Cap that we would like to share with you this month. Be sure to check out the two videos. Enjoy!

  1. K Street Magazine
    Olympic gold Medalist Esther Lofgren Motivates LLS Nike Half Marathon Runners 
    January 14, 2014
    http://kstreetmagazine.com/video-olympic-gold-medalist-esther-lofgren-motivates-lls-nike-half-marathon-runners/ (video)
  2. My Fox DC
    Week 1: Tucker trains for DC’s Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon 
    January 16, 2014
    http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/24469735/tucker-preps-for-rock-n-roll-marathon#axzz2s0Ci8nsA (video)
  3. Bethesda-Chevy Chase Patch
    Students Continue Teacher’s Fight Against Cancer
    January 22, 2014
    http://bethesda-chevychase.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/students-continue-teachers-fight-against-cancer

If you see a recent story mentioning our LLS NCA Chapter that we have missed, please email Stacey Matusko at Stacey.Matusko@lls.org.

Coach Dave Shaves for Cures

Dave and Veazy Girls (Before)

When one of Dave Blackwell’s former students, Hope Veazey, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) this past July, he knew immediately that he wanted to help. Dave had also lost his grandfather to leukemia and wanted to make a difference.

Coach Dave of HappyFeet NOVA is known for his longer than average hair. The premise of Coach Dave’s fundraising was simple:  The more donations to LLS, the more hair Coach Dave will lose. Cut #2

Coach Dave auctioned off his hair in the form of inches cut, with the ultimate goal of raising $10,000 to shave his head bald.  Hope, her sister, and other special guests wielded the clippers as Coach Dave met his goals. First it was $1,000, then it was $3,000, and then it was $5,000.

All of these efforts culminated in December. With Hope going through treatment and losing her own hair, Dave showed his solidarity by sporting a matching look.

Dave and Hope

Spending an Evening with the Best People I Know

Guest post by Mary McLaughlin

Mary McLaughlin

Mary McLaughlin: 2010 First Runner-Up for Woman of the Year

In 2010, I accepted a crazy and incredible challenge by participating in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) Campaign. I know I speak for all of my fellow former candidates when I say that this experience sincerely changed my life, and I am so thankful to have had such an opportunity. Aside from the obvious benefits of raising money for an amazing cause, I also had the privilege of meeting some of the most wonderful, generous people – people I am now lucky enough to call friends.

My particular experience as a candidate for Woman of the Year was a little different as I was a college junior, in school roughly three hours away from the DC area for the first half of the campaign. I was honored to be given an opportunity to stand on the same stage as so many powerful business men and women giving back to this community. Participating in this campaign at such a young age was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

When my brother, Ryan, was diagnosed with leukemia at 11 years old in 1998, he was forced to grow up way too fast when he was way too young. His strength and courage inspired me and my sisters, and when he lost his battle 17 months later, we continued his fight. We can never pretend to know what it is like for a child fighting cancer, but we can take steps toward better treatments and success rates. Ryan was barely a teenager when he lost his battle with blood cancer. How could I say no to an opportunity to continue Ryan’s fight in such a big way, when I was already (although barely) an adult?

Leadership Team members Amanda Tiede and Mary McLaughlin cheered on 17 candidates at the MWOY Winter Cocktail.

Leadership Team members Amanda Tiede and Mary McLaughlin cheered on 17 candidates at the MWOY Winter Cocktail.

I now have the pleasure of continuing my work with this campaign as a member of the MWOY Leadership Team. Each January, I look forward to attending the MWOY Winter Cocktail, where I get to spend time with some of my favorite people (former candidates and teams!) and meet the new candidates as they take their first steps toward their campaigns. Each candidate comes into this campaign with their own stories, their own connections to the cause, and their own ideas for fundraising. It is an incredible gift to get to spend time with people who are giving so much of their time and talent to benefit those touched by blood cancer.

Reigning Man & Woman of the Year Leo Tucker and Jeana Foster demonstrating LLS’s Cancer Ends With Me campaign.

Reigning Man & Woman of the Year Leo Tucker and Jeana Foster demonstrating LLS’s Cancer Ends With Me campaign.

Wednesday night, I was honored to meet so many of this year’s candidates at the 2014 Winter Cocktail, hosted by the reigning Man of the Year, Leo Tucker, at his beautiful home. Yet again, I was blown away by the passion, commitment, and ideas from each of these men and women.

Man & Woman of the Year candidates are a rare breed – they give more time, sweat, and energy than they ever even knew they had to raise as much money as they can to possibly earn the title of Man or Woman of the Year. At the same time, they also hope (at least a little) that all of the other candidates raise even more money toward the cause, and that the full group can work together to break the previous year’s records. After meeting this year’s candidates at the Winter Cocktail party, I know this year is going to be yet another record-breaking year.

Cancer doesn’t give you a choice, and it doesn’t discriminate – it doesn’t care about your age, your gender, your race, your religion…it affects all of us. I remember one of our former candidates saying, “you shouldn’t have to be lucky to live.” She couldn’t be more right, and I couldn’t be more proud of and excited for the incredible men and women who are taking on this life-changing opportunity. Good luck to all of our 2014 candidates!

Photos of some guests declaring Cancer Ends With Me:

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The Man & Woman of the Year campaign is a unique 10-week fundraising event in which individuals utilize their networks to raise funds for LLS’s mission – to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease & myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. For additional information on the campaign, or to make a nomination, visit www.mwoy.org/nca or contact Claudia Bahar at claudia.bahar@lls.org or 703.399.2929.

We Run to Beat Cancer — For Good

Guest post by Liz Mitchell Worthington 

Liz Worthington group shotToday we learned what Team in Training is all about.

In the blink of an eye, you can be perfectly healthy one day and sick the next.

You can be a 5-year-old who can never get warm.

You can be a high school athlete, involved in every sport possible and then one day notice a bump on the side of your neck that turns out to be lymphoma.

You can be a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who beat it and then years later finds out her friends and father will have to battle cancers of their own.

Today we listened to survivors and discovered that what we are doing with Team in Training is far bigger than ourselves.

It’s far bigger than a personal goal to run a marathon or half marathon.

It’s far bigger than a fundraising goal.

It’s far bigger than a good deed.

It’s saving lives and prolonging others. It’s improving the quality of life for patients and their families. It’s giving people a fighting chance.

Liz Worthington group shot

For many of us, we are running this race in honor or in memory of friends and family affected by leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers.

But today I also realized that I’m running for so many people I don’t even know. In the U.S. alone, there’s 1 million people currently battling blood cancer or in remission from it.I’m running this race for my cousin – Julia Dilworth – a leukemia survivor and an amazingly strong woman.

Since 2000, 50 new cancer drugs have been created and 41 percent of those have been for blood cancers. That’s because the money raised by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society goes to advance treatments and further research to cure leukemia and other blood cancers. We are at $1.4 billion and counting since 1988.

Waffle - HTBAfter our DC and Greater Washington teams met today to run 8 or 14 miles, depending on your race, we all shared a waffle breakfast together as we listened to our honored teammates and survivors. One survivor put it best,

“What happens for blood cancers, happens for all cancers.”

Together we are making a difference, and I couldn’t be more honored to be part of something far bigger than myself.

Please consider joining the cause by donating here.

 Team In Training kicks off it’s summer season on Saturday, January 25 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. All interested parties are invited to attend. Hear from survivors, alumni and coaches and learn why you should join the best sports charity training program in the Mid-Atlantic. 

Liz Mitchell Worthington is a first-time TNT participant and the Senior Editorial Trainer at Patch.com. You can read more about her journey with TNT here.