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Leukemia & Lymphoma Society organizes events for Blood Cancer Awareness Month in Harford County

Harford County's Moonlit Mission Team for the 2014 LLS Light the Night Walk leaves Camden Yards. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's 2015 Light the Night Walk is coming up on Nov. 14.
Harford County's Moonlit Mission Team for the 2014 LLS Light the Night Walk leaves Camden Yards. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's 2015 Light the Night Walk is coming up on Nov. 14. (Courtesey of Patricia Ford / Baltimore Sun)

At their meeting on Aug. 18, the Harford County Council joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) in designating September as Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

The most common forms of blood cancer are lymphoma (including non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma), leukemia and myeloma.

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Recent events have likely increased interest in blood cancers. In March, PBS aired "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies" – a three part series based upon the book by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee.

As presented in the book and the film, the role of blood cancer research has played a prominent role in the history of cancer treatment. Multi-drug chemotherapy and stem cell transplants were first successfully developed in the fight against blood cancers.

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When Governor Hogan announced that he had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Marylanders rallied around him as he began and continues treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma – the most common of the blood cancers. Just last month, many Harford County residents paid tribute to Chief Leo Matrangola, retired chief of police for the Town of Bel Air, who died after a brave fight with leukemia.

There will be several opportunities for Harford County residents to learn more about blood cancer and support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's work in blood cancer research and patient services during September and October.

Each event will provide information about blood cancers, services of LLS and the opportunity to support the valuable work of LLS. Local businesses have generously donated prizes and/or offered to host these events.

Saturday, Sept. 12 – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Abingdon Giant on Emmorton Road.

Sunday, Sept. 20 – 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Abingdon Giant on Emmorton Road.

Thursday, Sept. 24 – 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., in front of the Courthouse on Main Street in Bel Air.

Saturday, Oct. 10 – 6 – 9 p.m., Charm Studio, 329 Kenmore Ave. in Bel Air, will host an awareness event to support LLS in conjunction with their second anniversary celebration.

Tuesday, Oct. 13 – Greene Turtle at the Harford Mall will host an awareness event and fundraiser all day donating a portion of sales to LLS; pick up a flyer at any of the previous events or mention LLS to your server when you arrive.

Wednesday, Oct. 21 – 5 – 9 p.m., Enotria Restaurant and Grill, 2 Newport Drive in Forest Hill, will host an evening of dining, blood cancer information, silent auction, door prizes and fun with a portion of sales donated to LLS.

An estimated 1,185,000 people in the United States are living with, or in remission from leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma, and every three minutes someone in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer.

Blood cancers affect people of all ages. What blood cancers have in common is that they involve abnormalities in the blood cells, the lymphatic system (which includes the lymph nodes) and/or the bone marrow (the spongy center of the bone where blood cells develop.)

Each type of blood cancer is a different disease, and there are many different subtypes of leukemia and lymphoma. The precise type of blood cell involved and other factors determine the type, subtype and treatment.

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Although the most common blood cancers are leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, two less common illnesses that are classified as blood cancers are myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative neoplasms which involve abnormal blood cell production and/or the inability of the bone marrow to produce an adequate number of healthy blood cells.

There are no routine screening tests for blood cancers, and many of the symptoms of blood cancers can occur with other illnesses. Therefore, it is important to be aware of symptoms that could indicate a blood cancer and seek the advice of a physician if they occur.

Among the most common symptoms of a blood cancer are one or more enlarged lymph nodes, persistent flu-like symptoms such as fatigue or coughing, fever, excessive sweating (especially at night), bone pain, skin irritation, paleness, bruising easily, or unintentional weight loss.

Generally, the causes of blood cancers are not known. However, some studies have suggested a link between one or more types of blood cancer and exposure to chemicals such as benzene, or environmental exposure such as to ingredients in pesticides or herbicides. Other potential causes could be a suppressed immune system or exposure to extraordinary radiation.

LLS has provided over $1 billion in research funding, and has been involved in the development and enhanced availability of new treatments. What is more, many of the treatments for a specific blood cancer have later been used to treat another type of cancer or even some non-cancerous diseases. Much progress has been made in treating patients with blood cancers, with survival rates for some forms of blood cancer having doubled or tripled, and in some cases quadrupled, since LLS was founded in 1949.

Despite such efforts, many types of blood cancer remain incurable and require ongoing treatment and/or changes in treatment over time. For those patients, hope for continued remission, new treatment options, and concerns about the ability to afford treatments are facts of life. Even with the progress, someone in the United States dies every 10 minutes from a blood cancer. We can help to change that by supporting funding for research that leads to cures!

For those touched by any of the blood cancers, LLS offers many education and support services. These services include educational support groups, free teleconferences and booklets.

In addition, LLS offers financial assistance for co-pays for patients with financial need. Some of the medications for blood cancers come with very high co-insurance costs causing a hardship for even those who have insurance coverage. There are also programs that match newly-diagnosed patients with trained volunteer survivors and help children being treated for cancer to transition back to school.

For more information about blood cancer visit www.lls.org/md or call the LLS Information Resource Center at 1-800-955-4572. The Information Resource Center can also provide information about clinical trials related to blood cancers.

In Harford County, LLS and the Upper Chesapeake Cancer LifeNet sponsor a monthly educational support group specifically for those affected by blood cancers. Meetings are held at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and include speakers, demonstrations and discussion. If you would like to attend one of these meetings, contact Upper Chesapeake Cancer LifeNet at 443-643-3350.

Patricia Ford, an Abingdon resident, is a non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, nurse, Harford County resident and volunteer for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She is also the Captain of the Moonlit Mission Team for the LLS Light the Night Walk on November 14th at Camden Yards. For more information about Light the Night, visit the www.lightthenight.org website. If interested in joining the Moonlit Mission Team, you may call Pat at 410-569-0006.

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