On Tuesday, I attended our first TNT informational session at Runners HI in Aiea. I got to listen as Jen (our Branch Director) talked to a small group of interested runners about the events we are recruiting for this season, the program itself, fundraising, training, etc. As she got to the part where she talked about her personal reason to be involved, she asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had a friend or loved one affected by blood cancers, and almost every hand in the room went up.
I get pretty wrapped up in the training when I get involved with TNT but sometimes I forget just how much of an impact our fundraising has on cancer research in general. Another thing that Jen mentioned was that because of direct funding from TNT (government funding had been cut off), one of our researchers came up with a medication (Gleevec) that is a virtual cure from one type of Leukemia, CML. Below is the story of Virginia Garner, a CML survivor whose cancer is now in remission! I love these reminders of just what all of our hard work is actually doing in the fight against blood cancers.
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Virginia Garner is a blood cancer patient who became part of the LLS family when she was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). She is now a First Connection volunteer, a vocal member of her local CML Support Group, active in the Light The Night Walk “CML BUSTERS”, a mentor through Team In Training, involved in presentations through the School & Youth program and just an incredible resource! Here is a recent note from Virginia:
Ten years ago today (April 19, 2009) I sat in an examination room at UCLA as a participant in a clinical trial where I swallowed my first Gleevec pills. It’s hard to believe that all that time has passed. I remember having the pills in one hand and a cup of water in the other and chatting with Dr. Sawyers, Ginny the nurse, Van my husband, and Connie my sister-in-law until they lost patience and demanded that I swallow the pills. When I did, there was a hush in the room that I’ll never forget. I interpreted it as everyone there wondering what would happen next: Would my eyeballs fall out? Would my arms fall off? Would I descend into uncontrollable fits of coughing? Of course, what did happen was absolutely nothing, except that I walked out of that room armed with a new hope and on the road to complete molecular remission of the CML that had ravaged my body. That’s a pretty big nothing, huh?
For over two years now, my follow up tests have come back showing no detectable cancer cells, and I live a full and productive life full of energy and joie de vivre. These days I gratefully dedicate my time to others going through cancer treatment, whether it is by sharing my story with patients or fundraising for cancer research. I have the hope that one day all cancers will be obliterated, and more people can live a satisfying and full existence like me. Life is good!