The Leopard

Light the Night: When We Walk Cancer Runs

Penny Harris

Penny Harris

Kristi Harris, Hard News Editor

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The evening of Saturday, October 14, 2017 thousands of people gathered at the Salt Lake City downtown Library Square for Light the Night Leukemia walk. Despite it being an extremely cold night, people came to walk in support of those who have battled or still are battling cancer. This program raises funds in support of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer.

 

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was first known as The Leukemia Society of America (LSA). It was founded in 1949 by the De Villiers’ family, who lost a teenage son to Leukemia five years prior. Their mission started out to be finding a cure for Leukemia. Later on, their research expanded to Lymphoma and Myeloma as well. From then on, they have been known as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

 

“Though LLS was not the first to start cancer research, the organization has really pioneered research, programs and services in the blood cancer world,” says Katie Kersys, the current LLS Campaign director. In 1950, Sidney Farber established the Jimmy Fund to support his research in fighting childhood Leukemia. His findings led to the development of chemotherapy drugs for Leukemia and Lymphoma patients. The most widely used anti-Leukemia drugs were also developed in 1950 by George H. Hitchings, an advisor of LSA.

The first successful bone marrow transplant was conducted in 1956 by another advisor of LSA, E Donnall Thomas. The discovery of combination chemotherapy was developed in 1960 by Emil T. Frei, Emil J. Freireich, scientific advisors, and Dr. Gordon Zubrod. This really impacted the world of cancer because the combination chemotherapy is what patients get treated with to get better, it decreases the likeliness that resistant cancer cells will develop. Brian Druker tested a blocking drug that led to the first clinical trial in 1996, later known as Imatinib. Today, Imatinib has helped over 250,000 patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.

 

Stephan Grupp, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, had a big impact on the advancement of immunotherapy. This particularly treats pediatric acute lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) patients. Emily Whitehead was the first child to be treated by T-cell immunotherapy and is now five-years cancer free. The LLS continues to impact the fight against cancer by new discoveries from their cancer research.

 

Light the Night walks began in 1999, now widely spread to just under 200 communities nationwide. Throughout the year of 2017, their 131 fundraising groups, 10 sponsors, and 7 retail partners have been raising money to go towards their cancer research and treatments. Their goal for January 2017 through January 2018 is $500,000 and are now less than $5,000 away from achieving it. Light the Night walks are typically held between September and November every year. As for Utah’s Light the Night Walk, it is always the second Saturday of October.

 

This year, The Huntsman Cancer Institute, one of the hospitals at the University of Utah, participated as a fundraising group for the first time. Nicole Fenwick, social worker for the outpatient clinic at Huntsman, was a Team Captain along with Dr. Sweeten. They wanted to be a part of the walk to show their support towards their patients. For the future, Fenwick wants her team to start raising money sooner, get help with advertising their group to raise money, take a group picture and have their own tent at the walk. Their biggest goal is to have more of their patients involved in the walk.

 

Once the individuals involved in the walk got registered, they were provided with food from Texas Roadhouse, one of the sponsors. They served their delicious pork, rolls, and peanuts. During the downtime of two hours before the walk started, there were several booths set up giving out lanterns, shirts, necklaces, and glow sticks to advertise the battle against leukemia. There was also a special booth for people to light a candle and write a note in memory or in support of someone special who is fighting cancer or who has passed from cancer.

 

Light the Night walk started out with a ceremony recognizing specific individuals who have passed away from cancer or have been diagnosed. Then they go on to introduce each group; those with gold lanterns, red lanterns, then white lanterns.

 

Gold lanterns represent the remembrance of individuals who have passed away from cancer. Fenwick briefly describes a patient she had this past summer. Her patient was having a hard time responding to the treatment. She was getting weaker and more sick. Although treatments save people’s lives, the same or similar treatment may not work as well for someone else. This was one of those cases. “You can never compare someone’s cancer treatment to someone else’s treatment,” Fenwick affirmed.

 

Red lanterns are for those who are caretakers for someone battling cancer. Penny Harris, a Certified Medical Assistant at Huntsman, is a caretaker for both of her parents. Her dad, Vean Woodbrey, has had cancer for 13 years. He was first diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. His second cancer he had was bone cancer which was found in his skull. In Logan, where he lives, the doctors at Utah Cancer Center treated it with radiation. He received treatment three times a week for three months. “At the end of that treatment, they discovered he had Multiple Myeloma which is a bone cancer,” Harris says.

 

After receiving her degree in 2011 to become a medical assistant, Harris has been helping with Mr. Woodbrey’s medical needs. She keeps track of his medication and doctor visits. Harris keeps him updated about his appointments and works out a system with her sister, Traci Godfrey, to ensure that he has a way to get from Logan to Salt Lake. “I apply through FMLA which allows me to miss as much work as I need to care for him,” Harris states, “he comes to Huntsman every three months for tests and does his own home treatments every day.”

 

Harris’s mother, Tanya Woodbrey, was recently diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. She has been in the hospital for roughly three weeks getting started on treatment. Harris has spent several nights at the hospital to be there for her just like she would do with Mr. Woodbrey.

 

And finally, white lanterns are for the survivors of cancer who live on to tell their stories–whether they are cancer free or are still fighting cancer. Mark Hintze was diagnosed with Plasma-Cell Leukemia on March 18, 2015, at age 58. He is a father to 4 children and grandpa to 20 grandkids. Before his diagnosis, he was a talented construction worker. Mr. Hintze helped build schools, restaurants, businesses, hotels, and temples. Along with his career, he was excessively athletic. “You would never ever believe [he was diagnosed], he was the healthiest guy in the world,” says his wife, Robin Hintze, “he did everything active that you could think of.” He enjoyed going on hikes, bike rides, loved running, and playing volleyball and basketball.

 

Mr. Hintze had an Auto transplant, meaning it was his own bone marrow, on July 8, 2015. He had an ALP transplant which is a donors bone marrow, was on February 6, 2016. After his procedure, he had an allergic reaction to the medication he was being treated with for several weeks. He was having trouble recognizing his family and doctors. Then he went into a coma for 12 days, it was a miracle that he lived through it. Once Mr. Hintze woke up from his coma, he was in the hospital for two months relearning the essentials like walking, eating, talking, etc. Luckily, there was no further damage.

 

“I’ve had a lot of things along the way,” says Mr. Hintze, “[many cases of] Pneumonia, issues with my lungs,” and an almost heart attack from another allergic reaction. “He’s dealt with [his tribulations] like nobody could believe,” Mrs. Hintze states. He’s stayed positive throughout his journey and is slowly getting stronger.

 

Light the Night has been a great program to support cancer patients and raise money to contribute to cancer research and medicine. There are even some fundraising walks that are held for specific patients. Walks like this are a way to show these individuals they are cared for and that they have the support of people who may not even know them personally. It is a great way to help uplift their spirit in their time of need.

 

Resources:

http://www.lls.org/who-we-are/history

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