When my best friend, Willa Sheridan, asked me last year to help her raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I didn't hesitate to say yes. My mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor so I've always felt a deep connection to the cause. After my friend, Joe Pennisi, lost his battle to cancer in 2008, I threw myself into fundraising for cancer research. I ran a marathon for the American Cancer Society, and was the chair of Relay For Life of Georgetown University, where we raised over $1.5 million for the American Cancer Society during my four years there. But, I had never done anything specifically for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and didn't know much about the organization.
What I did know was that there was a very important little boy in my life battling leukemia. My neighbor, friend, and little brother that I never had, Francesco Galvano, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in July 2011, just a few months before Willa asked me to help her raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I had seen him get several spinal taps, be nauseous through chemotherapy treatments, miss out on his 7th grade school year, and have to stop playing soccer, his true passion. But, I also witnessed him smile through the pain, put on a brave face for all of us, crack jokes with the nurses and doctors, and make all of the children in the hospital with him forget about their sickness when they were with him. What I never saw during Francesco's entire treatment was a single complaint, any crying, or questioning of why this happened to him.
It seemed like fate that I was asked to get involved with fundraising for LLS at a time when the cause was so personal to me. That decision to get involved with LLS was one of the best things I've ever done. LLS is one of the best organizations I've ever worked with and the people I've met through my work with the organization have touched my life in so many ways. I was honored when LLS nominated me to be a candidate in its Woman of the Year campaign this year. The campaign is essentially a 10-week fundraising competition where individuals compete to raise the most money for LLS. Whoever raises the most money before the campaign ends on June 6 will be declared the Woman of the Year.
At first, I was hesitant to take on the responsibility of being a nominee for this wonderful award. I knew that I would have to dedicate long hours and a lot of energy to the campaign in order for it to be a success, and as a third year law student who works part time, time and energy are two things I always seem to be needing more of. My parents were initially concerned that I may be spreading myself too thin right before the most important test I'll ever take in my life: the bar exam, which I'll be sitting for this July. But I think we all knew on some level that I couldn't wait for a time that would be convenient. Cancer doesn't attack at a time that is convenient for everyone, so why should I wait? I thought of the courage and strength that Francesco has shown throughout his treatment, and remembered the inspirational battle that my friend Joe fought when he was sick, and I knew that I had to take on this campaign for the both of them. Joe was fearless and was always a leader, and I knew that I had to take a note from his book and act the way he would have if I wanted to make a difference for people fighting cancer.
This spring, I've compiled a campaign team of amazing individuals to help me raise $100,000 for LLS. We've called ourselves Team Leukin' for a Cure, and that's exactly what we're doing. We hope to raise enough money to find a cure for cancer so that no one else has to lose a friend as amazing as Joe was. But until we get to that point, we're also raising money in the hopes that LLS can fund treatment options that will make life a little bit easier for cancer patients so that everyone can live a life as full and optimistic as Francesco has during the past 21 months. We'll be having several events over the next few months to help us raise $100,000, and you can always find more information at our website www.leukin4cure.webs.com. Although winning the Woman of the Year would be an incredible honor, I know that no matter who wins this title, cancer loses, and I thank you for all your support in making that possible!