The Enemy Within

Fighting the battle against blood cancer.

Each September, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) observes Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma Awareness Month. The intent of the occasion is to shed light on these diseases and inform the public about the resources available for blood cancer patients and their families.

According to Dennis Chillemi, executive director of the LLS Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter, "Awareness Month is an opportunity to increase the public's understanding of blood cancers and encourage people to support the funding of research to find cures and education programs to help patients have the best possible outcomes throughout their cancer experience."

Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer. It causes more deaths than any other cancer among children and young adults under the age of 20. However, remarkable progress has been made in treating patients with blood cancers. Sixty years ago, there were few effective treatments for children or adults with blood cancer, and the rate of survival was very low. Today, about 75 percent of children with acute leukemia and nearly 80 percent of children and adults with Hodgkin lymphoma are cured. Improved therapies and stem cell transplantation have dramatically improved survival rates for most blood cancers. Even patients with diseases resistant to treatment, such as myeloma, are benefiting from new drugs that are increasing the rate and duration of remissions.

Since its inception in 1949, LLS has invested more than $600 million in research to find cures and improve therapies. LLS-funded research has led to key advances in understanding blood cancers as well as helped to produce new treatments to enhance and prolong people's lives. Innovations in cancer treatment over the years have included radiation and chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation and new targeted therapies that kill cancer cells without harming normal ones.

With chapters nationwide and in Canada, LLS sponsors numerous events in the community for volunteers to get involved and make a difference. Each fall, the Light The Night evening fundraising walks celebrate and commemorate lives touched by blood cancers. Athletes looking to train for marathons, triathlons and cycling events can receive free coaching in return for raising funds through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training program. Volunteers help to coach and mentor participants as they train for their events. Schoolchildren and teachers raise millions of dollars annually by taking part in the Pennies for Patients service learning program, which encourages philanthropy and educates students about blood cancers and treatments.

Through LLS patient services programs, blood cancer patients and their families have a comprehensive array of education and support services. There are family support groups and patient education workshops featuring health experts. Peer-to-peer support is also available through First Connection, a program that matches newly diagnosed patients with trained volunteer survivors. A back-to-school program helps children treated for cancer transition upon returning to the classroom.

To Learn More

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Information Resource Center (IRC) is a call center staffed by master's level social workers, nurses and health educators who provide information, support and resources to patients, their families and caregivers. IRC information specialists are available Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm, at (800)955-4572. The Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is located in White Plains and serves Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam Counties. For details on local events and services, call (914)949-0084 or visit LLS.org/wch, which is the definitive resource for information about blood cancers.