January 27, 2009

Honored Teammates

As I said before, I will be running and raising money in honor of all the individuals who have battled and are still fighting blood cancers. But I wanted to take a moment to tell you all a little bit about the honored teammates of the Santa Barbara Chapter of Team In Training who have battled various blood cancers and are the team’s inspiration.

In 2007, little Isabella Mireles began experiencing recurring fevers, was sleeping all the time, and had no energy, leaving her parents perplexed. A blood test revealed that Isa was severely anemic and a bone marrow aspiration confirmed her pediatrician’s fears of something more: Isa had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She spent two brave weeks in the hospital receiving intense chemotherapy before she was finally allowed to go home. She responded wonderfully to the chemo and therefore her prognosis is excellent; she is considered ultra low risk and has a 90% chance of being cured! The treatments have been difficult for little Isa, though. Nausea from the chemo, gaining weight from the steroids, and losing all of her hair were just some of the challenges she has faced, all the while barely complaining and maintaining her sweet personality that made the whole hospital staff fall in love with her! Isa has to continue treatment until the end of 2009, including daily oral chemo meds, once a month visits to the clinic for intravenous chemo, and every three months going into the hospital for an infusion of chemo into her spinal fluid. Isa has been so brave throughout the whole experience, and everyone is so proud of her. Her dad even signed up for TNT and ran the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon, raising over $11,000 for blood cancer research in honor of his little girl!

In October 2007, Erin Johansson started noticing a chronic non-productive cough. The cough persisted and soon she began noticing other problems and became extremely weak and fatigued. She finally went to the hospital, only to be told she was suffering from allergies. A few days later, while walking on a treadmill, Erin’s heart rate spiked close to the maximum and she was unable to lie down. Her fiancĂ©e immediately took her back to the hospital where a CT scan revealed an 11x10x9cm mass covering Erin’s left lung, essentially crushing it. After several more days of blood tests and biopsies, she was finally given the horrible diagnosis: non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She immediately began chemotherapy in the hospital as well as an immunotherapy called Rituxan, a drug whose research was funded by the LLS and Team In Training. After six rounds of chemo and twenty days of radiation, Erin is now ten months in remission and completed her first half marathon with TNT on November 1, 2008. Although some lasting effects from the radiation are still noticeable, they are slowly disappearing, and Erin can now call herself a survivor!

In February 2007, Michael Lovette felt a strange lump on his neck while trying on a shirt. Just three weeks later, he was diagnosed with Hodkin’s Lymphoma in Boston, MA. The cancer had spread through his neck and chest and had already progressed to stage IIa. But thanks to research in the field, much of which was funded by the LLS and its partner programs, Mike’s prognosis was good; he had a ~75% chance of being cured. He underwent 6 months of ABVD chemotherapy treatment and with 2 months remaining, a PET scan indicated no more signs of cancerous cells! Michael finished chemotherapy on July 29th and has been in remission ever since. A month after he finished chemo, Mike moved to Santa Barbara to pursue his doctorate in chemical engineering at UCSB. In January 2007 he joined TNT and completed the 2007 San Diego Rock N Roll full marathon. In 2008 he went on to complete the race in San Diego again, showing all of us just how important finding a cure for blood cancers is.

I mentioned Teresa Martinez in my previous post, but I wanted to explain her story a little more. Teresa was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2005 after painful bruises on her back lead her to see a doctor. Routine blood tests revealed shocking information – Teresa’s white blood cell count was 170,000 (a normal person’s is 8-10 thousand!). Teresa immediately began treatment with a drug called Gleevec, a chemotherapy drug invented in a lab funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In December 2005, Teresa went into remission and is currently expecting her first child! While this is undoubtedly wonderful, since becoming pregnant Teresa has had to discontinue Gleevec and her cancer has since returned, so as soon as she gives birth she must immediately begin the drug regimen again. Teresa’s story reminds us of how much further we have to go.
Blood cancers affect far more people than you could imagine. Maybe even someone you know. Hearing the stories of survivors inspires us to fight just like they did until one day it is no longer necessary.
p.s. The kickoff for the Summer 2009 Season is this Saturday and our first training is Feb. 7th!!

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