A good reason to walk

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By Rose Egge

During the first few days after I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma I did what any 25-year-old faced with such a crisis would do: I scoured the internet for information. I should have known better, being an online reporter, but I still ended up frustrated with the abundance on conflicting information I found.

I asked my doctor “Where can I go to learn more?”

He sent me to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). That’s when I really began to understand my condition, and saw that there was hope.

After I began treatment, I found myself facing a burden that too many patients face: overwhelming medical costs.  

That’s when the LLS reached out to offer financial aid and started covering my prescription co-pays.

After all the support this organization offered me, it was an easy decision to join in the 2011 Light the Night Walk, and I am thrilled to be one of the organization’s “Honored Heroes” for this year’s walk.

Still, it’s easy to forget how much gratitude you owe someone. Today I am “cancer free” and busy living an incredibly joyful life. But just as the power of LLS began to fade from my memory, I met Ajay Gopal, M.D.

Dr. Gopal is the Director of Clinical Research, Hematology Malignancies/Hematology, at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He is working on clinical trial for patients who relapse from aggressive b-cell lymphomas.

One day, that could be me.

I don’t like to think about the threat of my cancer returning, but I know it’s possible. I am living my life convinced that this battle is behind me, but I’ve seen my friends relapse. I’ve seen treatments fail.

And in dark moments I am terrified that I will end up back in that chemotherapy suite.

But Dr. Gopal is taking my fears and fighting them for me. His clinical trial is for patients who have relapsed and need a stem cell transplant to be cured. But before a transplant can occur, doctors must use treatments like chemotherapy to put the cancer back “in remission.” Sometimes, those therapies don’t work and patients run out of options.

That is where Dr. Gopal hopes to help. He is using high-dose radiation immunotherapy to treat patients in this situation so that they might have another chance at a cure.

“For many of the individuals in this trial there are no other options other than hospice care,” Dr. Gopal said. “These are often young people and we could now have something to offer them.”

Without funding from LLS, Dr. Gopal’s study would not have happened.

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society chooses wisely projects that will have most impact and projects that are unlikely to survive without their support,” Dr. Gopal said.

In total, the Washington/Alaska Chapter of LLS has contributed $8.2 million to medical research in our community.

This year, I will not only support LLS because of all the support they have given me, but because of the work they are doing today to help survivors, like myself, keep on living.

If you would like to join me in the Light The Night Walk on September 29, sign up online. There is no minimum fundraising amount and all are welcome to participate.

You can also learn more about the event at the Light The NIght Kickoff Party at REI in Downtown Seattle, Saturday, July 21, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. I will be speaking at the event.  

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About Rose Egge

Rose Egge

Rose Egge is a community reporter living and working in West Seattle. At age 25, doctors discovered a tumor on her spine and diagnosed her with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer. While she is undergoing treatment, Rose will write about her fight against cancer and reporting in the local community.