Miss A Columnist

As a 4-year Leukemia survivor, Stacey Mertes is heavily involved in fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as well as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the American Diabetes Association. Her 7-year-old son, Logan, is a recently diagnosed Type 1 diabetic, but keeps Stacey on her toes with his own active fundraising endeavors such as the Columbia Tower climb (for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society), WaMu stair climb (for Cystic Fibrosis), and several triathlons and other stair climbs around the city. Originally from a suburb of Chicago, Stacey has lived in many of the local neighborhoods (including spending 11 years next to the Pike Place Market), since graduating from the University of Washington. She finally settled down in the most diverse zip code in the country, Columbia City, where she enjoys walks to the many restaurants, farmers market, and art events nearby. Her favorite hobby of late is finding the most fun “free” things to do around Seattle with her son. She loves movies, plays, visiting the Pacific Science Center and other museums, and finding those geocaching adventures.

Recap: Light The Night Walk Seattle

Every four minutes someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and every 10 minutes someone loses their life. Light the Night, a walk around Green Lake Park in Seattle, was Saturday, September 24, 2011, and honored those who have lost their lives or is still battling a blood cancer. The South Sound event was held on September 17, 2011 at Ruston Way in Tacoma.

Balloons at Light the Night

Balloons at Light the Night Walk Seattle (Photo Credit: Stacey Mertes)

Saturday was that perfect Seattle weather – sun, some clouds, some drizzle, but it was a beautiful night to walk the 2.8 miles around Green Lake. Over 2,500 people walked as nighttime fell on the lake, honoring those who have, had, or have survived a blood cancer. The proceeds from the walks go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).  Champions for the Cure, people who raised $100 or more, were given a t-shirt, a bracelet to allow them food and drink at the event booths, and a balloon of a certain color: red for supporters, white for survivors, and gold for those remembering those who lost the battle.  Each balloon was outfitted with a tiny light, and as night fell on Green Lake, the balloons illuminated the path along with hundreds of glow sticks kids were carrying.

Each dollar raised will directly benefit patients and their families. Seven researchers in our local Seattle area are directly funded by LLS, and spend every day searching for cures. They are able to continue their research from the support of fundraisers like the Light the Night Walk.

Research dollars raised during fundraisers like this have recently led to a breakthrough in a cure for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). A small but very promising clinical trial out of the University of Pennsylvania highlights the importance of funding blood cancer research. Three patients with advanced CLL have achieved remission thanks to a new therapy using gene transfer therapy to create T-cells that can kill cancer cells. This new therapy may be the answer for this disease and other cancers as well. The medical field is cautiously optimistic as the study was done on just three individuals. However, the fact that they are that close to a cure is inspiring enough for this writer. So, get those walking shoes on, motivate your friends, and get walking.

Light the Night Event, Team Love, Seattle

Light the Night Event, Team Love, Seattle (Photo Credit: Stacey Mertes)

My team, Team Love, was named by my seven year old son, Logan. It was named after his love for mommy when he was five years old when we participated in the Columbia Tower climb for LLS. I was in my second year of chemotherapy at that time. The name stuck, so any event we do in honor of LLS and in honor of my survival and of those friends I have lost to blood diseases, we do with the Team Love name. I am 4 years in remission, so this event and the money it raises is quite important to me personally.

Last year I was the honored patient for the event. This year, one of the honored patients for the Seattle event, Tyler Bledsoe, was not so fortunate. Tyler Bledsoe was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) on February 19, 2007 at age 40.  Like many others, his disease was discovered by accident after he went to the doctor with pneumonia.  The routine blood tests that the doctor ran showed abnormally high white blood cell counts.  Tyler was admitted to the hospital that day and began treatment for both CML and pneumonia.  He was released from the hospital a few days later to attend his own wedding.

Tyler Bledsoe, honored patient of Light the Night Walk Seattle

Tyler Bledsoe, honored patient of Light the Night Walk Seattle (Photo Credit: Bledsoe Family)

Because of the research funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Tyler was able to fight his battle against CML with various medications and a bone marrow transplant.  Each of the CML drugs provided quality of life while attacking the disease, thanks to their ability to target the cancerous cells.  Ultimately, his disease overcame the abilities of the currently available drugs and Tyler passed away in January 2011.

Cancer stole Tyler’s mobility, his ability to work and play soccer, and his freedom to see friends and family, but it never stole his spirit.  Tyler was an inspiration to countless people as he battled his disease and will live on in his family and friend’s memories as an example of a man who brought out the best in others. Team Firefly was the team consisting of friends and family of Tyler’s and they alone raised over $14,000 to help others battle the disease and in hopes that someday there will be a cure.

The total donations have not been tallied yet, but there is still one more month to donate. If you would like to donate, please go to Light the Night walk and donate to a team or individual.

Proceeds for the Light the Night walk go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure Leukemia, Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and Myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.

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