The annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (#ASCO17) meeting kicked off Friday, drawing a multinational gathering of more than 38,000 cancer researchers, clinicians, patient advocates, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to Chicago to share the latest advances in cancer care.
As has been the case in recent years at these major cancer conferences, the emphasis has been on emerging approaches to immunotherapy, which are therapies that harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer, and precision medicine, which are therapies that target the genetic drivers of the disease. While much of the focus of this meeting is on solid tumor cancers, such as lung, breast and colon cancer, there has also been news of interest in the blood cancers.
Ella Behnke of San Antonio, Texas, is a 16-year-old cheerleader who attends Alamo Heights High School and is making history, as the winner of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) national title “Student of the Year.” Ella raised more than $334,768 for LLS to invest in cancer cures with an intense seven-week fundraising campaign involving everything from a very active campaign team, social media activations to visiting cancer patients at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.
Ella knows firsthand about battling cancer — she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoblastic lymphoma at the age of two. This made her victory even sweeter, “I’m honored to be able to have an impact for others who are still fighting this disease. I want to help find a cure, I believe I can make a change, I believe I will make a change,” said Ella.
To help spread awareness, Ella, with support from her campaign manager and twin sister Berkley, visited young cancer patients in the hospital and shared their courageous stories on her fundraising page.
Ella is so grateful for her Campaign Team! They helped fundraise tremendously for her. Working as a squad, they used their social media expertise to launch a fundraising page on Facebook, “Open Your Heart with Ella,” where Ella unveiled several fundraising activities including:
A “sold out” fundraiser comprised of prizes put together by her campaign leaders and families
“Shop for a Cause,” an exclusive eating and shopping event at local shops, including Penny Lane, Baker Tatum, and Meadow Boutique
“Crush for LLS,” a baseball fundraiser held at the Gaylard Finley baseball tournament, where $25 was donated every time an Alamo Heights player hit the ball
“LLS Cheer Challenge,” a social media campaign where local supporters posted videos in various cheering routines, and using the hashtag, #LLScheerchallenge
The David Clark & David Dikin fundraising event benefiting LLS
In the campaign’s inaugural year, this innovative take on peer-to-peer fundraising conceived by LLS, the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to fighting blood cancers, mobilized more than 400 motivated high school students across the country who raised an astounding total of $6 million for LLS’s cutting-edge cancer research and patient services.
The Students of the Year program is a seven-week campaign in which select high school students participate in a fundraising competition to benefit LLS. The candidates/teams who raise the most money at the end of the competition earn the title Student(s) of the Year. Top local fundraisers become eligible to win the national title. The students raise money in honor of a local patient hero who is currently battling or is in remission from a blood cancer.
Through programs like Students of the Year, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies. The funds raised through Students of the Year are used for:
Research to advance lifesaving therapies like precision medicine and immunotherapies that are saving lives today;
Free blood cancer information, education and support for patients and families;
National and local advocacy efforts for policies that provide access to lifesaving treatments to the patients who need them.
As Congress considers new healthcare legislation, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and its nationwide grassroots network of more than 100,000 advocacy volunteers, is urging lawmakers to protect lifesaving access to health care for millions of Americans, including cancer patients and others with pre-existing conditions.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) is a healthcare overhaul that puts those with pre-existing conditions at grave risk of losing access to health insurance. The House of Representatives passed the AHCA and the bill is now with the Senate. People across the country have been posting to social media with the hashtag #IAmAPreexistingCondition to share their concerns about the bill.
LLS is calling upon cancer patients and their loved ones to amplify their voices as this bill is considered by sharing a short video about how the AHCA would impact them. LLS has received an outpouring of video stories, which are posted to its LLS Advocacy Facebook page. Here are a few:
“My son Lucas and I are asking our lawmakers to stand with us & support patients with pre-existing conditions! We know firsthand the toll a #cancer diagnosis can have on a family. Under the #ACA our family & millions of others have protections against pre-existing condition exclusions and lifetime maximum coverage caps. In addition to now having a pre-existing condition, Lucas exhausted his $6 million lifetime maximum in his yearlong battle with #Leukemia.”
“This is 2 year old Kendal Breyfogle, who, along with her identical twin sister Kenedi, was diagnosed with AML at 3 months old. After 17 months of remission, Kendal relapsed and is currently Day +11 from transplant right now. She has spent 212 days of her 2 years of life living in the hospital. Kenedi is 22 months in remission. Kenedi and Kendal are pre-existing conditions.”
You can share your story by following these three steps:
Grab your smartphone and turn it to video mode.
In your own words, record a video. Speak from the heart with just a couple sentences about who you are, your personal connection to blood cancer, and why you oppose any bill that doesn’t adequately cover pre-existing conditions. Here’s an example of what you might say: "Hi, I’m [your name] from [your city], and I’m asking my lawmakers to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions aren’t priced out of healthcare. This matters to me personally because ___________."
Upload your video to the LLS Advocacy Facebook page. To inspire others, make sure your post is set to public, use the hashtag #IAmAPreexistingCondition, and tag your Senators. Not on Facebook? Send your video via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.