May 31, 2011 -- National Cancer Survivors Day is held annually on the first Sunday in June to celebrate cancer survivors.
To mark the event, scheduled for June 5, 2011, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Gateway Chapter is paying tribute to Russ Been for his extraordinary courage in the face of his reoccurring battles.
Russ, who currently resides in Affton, has survived Hodgkin Lymphoma, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), and triple by-pass surgery.
Russ was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma on Oct. 10, 2003. He was 33 years old and had just returned from his honeymoon in Jamaica. Upon his return Russ noticed he was getting frequent fevers, unbearable night sweats and cold-like symptoms. He went to see his doctor who diagnosed him with a bacterial infection in his lungs and prescribed him antibiotics. The antibiotics were ineffective, and his doctor decided to take a chest x-ray.
Once the x-ray was reviewed Russ was immediately referred to a pulmonologist. After several weeks of different treatments he was given a CAT scan. While awaiting the results of the CAT scan, Russ noticed a small lump in his groin area. The lump was biopsied on a Friday, and by Monday, he received a call to inform him that they had found five softball-size lymph nodes in his chest. He was diagnosed with Stage IV B Hodgkin Lymphoma, which is usually considered terminal.
Russ endured six rounds of chemotherapy, each round lasting three weeks. It was a treacherous process, and he almost lost his life while slipping into a week-long coma during the fourth round. However, Russ and his supporters kept a positive attitude and in Sept. 2004 he went into remission. While the treatments were over, he still had to endure 28 days of radiation, monthly blood transfusions and tests.
In July 2005, doctors conducted a bone marrow biopsy the results of which showed that he had Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). It took eight days of around-the-clock chemotherapy treatment, but the hospital was able to rid his body of Leukemia. Unfortunately, he still had an overload of blood cells that were unable to fully develop and therefore, could not carry out their normal functions. Russ needed a bone marrow transplant. For two months, he waited as his family members were tested for a bone marrow match.
On August 2005, he discovered that his younger brother had an exact bone marrow match, but before Russ could get the transplant he had to undergo chemotherapy again for seven days to make sure his body was ready to accept the transplant.
On Sept. 6, 2005, Russ received his brother's stem cells and within a week he had a normal white blood cell count. While the treatments were over for AML, he still had to see the oncologist every three months.
Russell Been has not only survived these two aggressive cancers, but also survived a triple by-pass surgery and he is currently battling Graft-versus-host disease in which the transplanted marrow attacks his healthy body. His positive spirit and willingness to give back even when he himself is struggling is a testament to his character.
His wife, Jen, who was miraculously blessed with a child during all of these treatments, has recently discovered that she is yet again pregnant.
Russ, who was involved with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) before being diagnosed with blood cancer, continues to stay involved as a board member and with fundraising through LLS' Team In Training program. Russ has recently decided to fundraise and take part in Race to Cure Lymphoma 5K in October.
"Survivors like Russ are an inspiration to others faced with a diagnosis," said Debbie Kersting, the Gateway Chapter's Executive Director. "The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society wants patients and their families to know that we are here for them, with services and support."
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) serves patients through its:
"A cancer diagnosis is frightening and overwhelming but the support and information my family and I received from LLS really helped us get through it," said Russ.
For more information, please contact The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Kelly Wahl at (314) 878-0780 or Kelly.Wahl@lls.org.
National Cancer Survivors Day is an annual, worldwide celebration of life that is held in hundreds of communities throughout the United States, Canada, and other participating countries. Participants unite in a symbolic event to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.
Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org or contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. www.lls.org.