UCLA Health recently announced that it will be a presenting sponsor for Light the Night; partnering with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in its mission to find cures for blood cancers.
Jassmine Ahumada’s 7-year-old son, Rey, should be running, jumping and playing outside like most other children his age. Instead, he’s fighting leukemia and “stuck in a bubble,” says his mom, an admissions clerk at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. “That word, ‘cancer,’” she adds. “We need to put an end to it.”
With that as a goal, UCLA Health is backing the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Oct. 22 “Light the Night Walk” at L.A. Live. More than 60 teams composed of hundreds of UCLA Health staff members, patients, including many cancer survivors, family members, researchers and community members are expected to participate by carrying red, white or yellow lanterns that will literally light up the Southern California night.
“UCLA Health is proud to partner with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to help create a future without blood cancers,” said Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health and corporate walk chair for the Los Angeles event. “Over the years, the society has funded about 50 UCLA researchers with almost $10 million, and its support has been vital to the development of many treatment breakthroughs, including Gleevec, a pill for a common form of adult leukemia that has dramatically improved five-year survival rates.”
Jassmine’s lantern will be red in support of Rey and other patients with blood cancers who are hoping for a cure. Individuals who wish to commemorate a loved one lost to cancer will carry yellow lanterns, while cancer survivors will carry white, signifying the power of research.
Another UCLA Health employee, Martin Lingard, will also be walking at Light the Night, but his lantern will be white. Lingard, a lymphoma survivor, said he is “proud and pleased to be carrying a white lantern” to raise awareness and research funds that will lead to better therapies and cancer-fighting drugs with fewer side effects.
As assistant director of logistics, he is responsible for patient transport and materials management. Following his diagnosis in 2012, he underwent surgery followed by four different types of chemotherapy and then radiation. While effectively fighting the cancer, the drugs took an enormous toll on his body.
“The veins in my arms are damaged and my digestive system was tremendously affected by the chemotherapy drugs,” he said. “It’s important, of course, to focus on a cure, but also important to develop new drugs that specifically target only the cancer – without harmful side effects.”
According to UCLA researcher Dr. John Timmerman, the LLS is the only organization that focuses completely on blood cancers.
“They want to advocate for new research and bring exciting cures for patients with all different types of blood cancer,” said Timmerman, associate professor of hematology and oncology at UCLA Health.
Light the Night Walks are presented by LLS every fall in nearly 200 communities across North America, bringing together patients, survivors, health care professionals, community members and corporate sponsors – all with the goal of funding research to help find cures for blood cancers. Funds raised from the Light the Night Walk also help improve patient access to treatment and bolster support services for patients and their families.
For more information, visit LightTheNightUCLA.org.