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Cancer Sucks: Help LLS Find A Cure

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 14 November 2014

 

Bailey's Heroes at the 9th Annual Winter Pineapple Classic 5K for LLS.  Photo by Oliver McIntosh, Nov '14

Bailey’s Heroes at the 9th Annual Winter Pineapple Classic 5K for LLS. Photo by Oliver McIntosh, Nov ’14

At the time of her leukemia diagnosis, Bailey Stenson had a 65% chance of survival.  Survive it she did, and so she can now say, “I am thankful for my family, for my health, for my active lifestyle.  I am thankful for each day and moment that I am cancer free.  But mostly, I am thankful for people like you.”

Stenson is grateful for people like us who give to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Washington/Alaska Chapter, which will raise $9 million this year for research – that has led to treatments for blood cancers, like the acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) that struck Stenson.  Treatments that, today, give children diagnosed with ALL a 90% survival rate.

‘Pray It Doesn’t Happen’

Stenson is now 26 years old – older than her parents were when they found out their baby had this grave disease.

On the obstacle course at the 9th Annual Winter Pineapple Classic 5K, a fundraiser for LLS.  Photo by Oliver McIntosh, Nov '14

On the obstacle course at the 9th Annual Winter Pineapple Classic 5K, a fundraiser for LLS. Photo by Oliver McIntosh, Nov ’14

At age 3, the previously bubbly, energetic, outgoing, and talkative toddler changed drastically.  Her mom took her to several doctors who waved off the concerns and talked of a bladder infection, then UTI, then your common cold.  Stenson’s mom knew that wasn’t right.

“My mom told me a pretty crazy story,” Stenson recalled recently.  While working as a grocery clerk, a little boy with leukemia came through her line.  The boy’s mother told her to, ‘pray it doesn’t happen to you.’  She explained how they knew the boy had something wrong when he had pains in his legs…

A year later, Stenson’s young, single mom kept searching for an answer – hoping the pains in her daughter’s legs would turn out to be growing pains as doctors kept assuring her.  Still, she pushed on, taking Stenson to her own doctor, who ran some tests and sent her to Children’s Hospital.  After waiting an eternity in a room, with a broken clock that wouldn’t move, Stenson’s mother and grandmother were given the news, ‘Your child has leukemia.’

“You never want to hear those words,” Stenson said, “think about if it did happen to you.  It probably has.  If you know more than 10 people…”

Stenson doesn’t remember much from that time.  She was very sick; pneumonia, high temperatures, chemotherapy, surgeries and countless hospital trips.  “I went through everything while I was sick,” Stenson recalled, “I had to be flown back early from a family vacation,” for emergency nasal surgery.  “I felt like I was constantly getting spinal taps,” she remembers, and the Thanksgiving Day, at age six, when she and her mom threw away her medications.

Fundraising, even for devastating blood cancers, can still be fun - especially at the 9th Annual Winter Pineapple Classic for LLS.  Photo by Oliver McIntosh, Nov '14

Fundraising, even for devastating blood cancers, can still be fun – especially at the 9th Annual Winter Pineapple Classic for LLS. Photo by Oliver McIntosh, Nov ’14

The Kids, And The Parents

Now, as an active adult, Stenson works for a start-up called Volt Athletics, located in Fremont, spends time out with friends, operates her own photography business, and raises money, again with friends, for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) with fun activities like the 9th Annual Winter Pineapple Classic 5K held last week.

“I mostly think about kids,” Stenson said about running, and raising money, “I feel for their parents.”  As Courtney Hale, Director of Special Events for the Washington/Alaska Chapter of LLS, observed, “blood cancers are the number one killer of kids under 20 years old.”  Blood cancers are the #3 cancer killer in North America.  During the last 60+ years, LLS has invested more than $875,000,000 to develop blood cancer therapies – and since the 1960s the survival rate for blood cancer patients, like Stenson, have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled.

Since Stenson was diagnosed in 1991, the survival rate for her type of blood cancer has gone up 25%.  In general, Hale reported, blood cancers had a 3% survival rate in the 1960s, and now, thanks in part to the work of LLS, well-over a 90% survive today.

“The treatment they gave me was a trial,” Stenson acknowledged, “it just happened that I fit the credentials.”  Her mother agreed to let them give her the more aggressive treatment, hoping it would help her daughter.  “It was more intensive than what they were doing at the time,” Stenson said, and “it ended up being the protocol.”  It saved her life, and probably a lot more lives as well.

Another fun way to raise money to fight blood cancers, in Fremont!

Another fun way to raise money to fight blood cancers, in Fremont!

‘Working To Find A Cure’

LLS named Stenson their Honoree for the 2014 Winter Classic.  In her statement, she wrote about being a cancer survivor, and said, “Cancer doesn’t pick and choose.  It affects everyone.  Let’s keep working to find a cure.  Cancer sucks.”

LLS has many ways – fun ways – to get involved and help fund a cure.  The Winter Classic, a 5K run by teams through an obstacle course, while they carry a pineapple, will return next year but also, in March 2015, the two largest LLS events take place – the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb and The Big Climb in the Columbia Tower.  LLS also has the Team In Training program that runs all year ‘round, providing people with a healthy way to get involved, in a supportive community.

In Fremont, you can help raise money for LLS research by drinking a special rosemary apricot plum cider at Schilling & Co Cider House on December 2nd, starting at 4p.  This Team In Training event, raising money for the recently diagnosed Pearl Rojas, will contribute toward research to, hopefully, create many, many more survivors just like Stenson.

 

 


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©2014 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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