On Saturday evening I had the opportunity to attend the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night” event. It is an evening where supporters and survivors come together to join in the fight for a cure for blood diseases, in the hopes that they will one day be eradicated. It is a celebration of all the hard work that many people put in raising money for LLS to help them continue the good work they do. As I stood among the 4,000 people I started to think about my journey to that spot, on that night.
Several years ago, if you had asked me anything about Leukemia or Lymphoma I would have stared back at you with a blank face. I knew very little about it. Then in the span of two years it hit close to home for me, first with my good friend Jann and then a year later with my dad. Suddenly, I was faced with needing to know all I could learn about these diseases that were so foreign to me. The more I studied the more that I learned that unfortunately Leukemia and Lymphoma know no age barriers. It affects the young, middle aged and elderly generation without discrimination. The fortunate thing is that because of research and development, many people have a much greater opportunity for addressing the disease today than those who may have faced it in the past.
The most amazing thing about this experience for me has been how many things have come together to assist me in dealing with this new unknown. Because my dad’s medication costs almost $11,000 a month, LLS has given him grants to help pay his copays, which are more that he could otherwise afford. At the same time, I received the Lightning Community Hero Award, which afforded me the opportunity to donate $20,000 of my grant to LLS in honor of my dad and Jann. That in turn provided me the opportunity to be standing in that park on a brisk Saturday night and be a part of something incredible taking place around me.
In the LLS walk people are given lanterns that light up. You carry a gold lantern if you are walking in memory of someone, white if you are a survivor and red if you are a supporter of someone with Leukemia or Lymphoma. The first lanterns to go up were gold in memory of those that succumbed to the disease. Then as we were gathered in a circle, in the middle were all the white lanterns with the many survivors. All the survivors were surrounded by the red lanterns who were there in support of someone that they knew that was fighting Leukemia or Lymphoma. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I had seen.
This journey called life often takes us to unexpected places where we are faced with things that we never dreamed that we would have to deal with. Those things usually come unexpectedly and we are faced with needing to learn about things that we could never have imagined. The most important lesson I have learned is that we do not ever have to do it alone. There are resources and people having gone through similar situations that are there to guide us if we just let them.
On Saturday I got to light the night in honor of my friend Jann and my dad. I got to be a very small part of something much greater than me. In doing so, for that moment in time, I got to give a little more food to my soul.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.