By Ed Svec
For seven years, I have been participating in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The® Night walks in Long Island, New York. Sometimes I’m asked why I walk. I say, “I don’t do it for myself; I walk for future blood cancer patients.”
There’s no screening. There’s no known prevention. Our best hope today rests in supporting research to find cures and making sure all patients get the best support and care possible.
My hope is that the treatment for those diagnosed with blood cancer in the future won’t be as invasive, debilitating or emotionally draining as what I went through.
My lymphoma was a journey to hell and back again. After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s B-cell follicular lymphoma in 2009, I underwent eight sessions of chemotherapy in just four months.
During that time, I wasn’t allowed to drive. And I couldn’t go into public places because my immune system was compromised; it was like being under house arrest.
I lost 55 pounds and every hair that I owned, and my toenails started to peel. I felt like a soft shell crab.
In the end, though, my lymphoma went into remission, and I survived. So I’m grateful to the people who were participating in these walks years before I got sick, raising funds and supporting research in blood cancer. It was partly through their efforts that my odds of surviving lymphoma were as good as they were.
What I went through pales in comparison to what my friend experienced when he was diagnosed with the same disease 15 years prior.
Like the people who walked a decade before I was diagnosed, now it’s my turn to pay it forward by raising funds to improve treatment for blood cancer in the future.
You can see how far we’ve come in the treatment of blood cancer at the Light The Night events. The sheer number that participate in these walks today is inspiring. Survivors of every age and background come to share their journeys and to carry their white lanterns with pride. Hearing those stories and seeing those white lights is one of the most uplifting things that someone currently struggling with blood cancer can experience.
That’s why I decided to share my story in front of a large crowd of patients and survivors at my local walk in Nassau County on Long Island, NY last year. Afterward, a couple introduced me to their six-year-old daughter. She was being treated for lymphoma at the time but didn’t want to talk about it with her parents or anyone else. I understand; I’m 63, and it’s tough for me to talk about it.
I knelt down beside her and asked her if she was okay. She said “yeah” and hugged me. It’s small interactions like this at these walks that can make big differences to patients who need to know they are not alone in their journey. We are fighting against this disease right along side them.
ED SVEC GAVE A SPEECH TO CURRENT PATIENTS AND SURVIVORS DURING LAST YEAR’S LIGHT THE NIGHT WALK IN NASSAU COUNTY, NEW YORK.
By supporting continued research, we can improve the lives of patients like that little girl and stop losing loved ones to blood cancers. In the meantime, we remember those we have lost during the Light The Night walks. Participants write down and display the names of people who have lost their battles in the Remembrance Tent. This year, I’m up to three names. I don’t want to add anybody else.
Like the people who walked a decade before I was diagnosed, now it’s my turn to pay it forward by raising funds to improve treatment for blood cancer in the future. I hope that you will join us for a walk this year and make a difference in the lives of blood cancer patients.
Discover how you can participate in an upcoming walk near you by visiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night website.