Andy Whitfield had everything to live for. A rising star, he was playing a leading role in the hit television series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” and building a healthy resume of both TV and film credits. He was raising two young children with the love of his life, his wife Vashti.
In March 2010, he received the worst kind of news: he had non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, given his age and fitness, they had every expectation that he would recover. He began chemotherapy immediately and was declared cancer free in six weeks. Unfortunately, the disease returned only a few months later.
Whitfield was forced to abandon his television role, and a year later, he died at the age of 39.
Early on in his journey, Whitfield and his wife made the decision to allow Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lilibet Foster to document his experience of healing. They were confident he would prevail in his fight and hoped that sharing his story would inspire others who have challenges and dreams.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society collaborated on the eventual release of the documentary, “Be Here Now (The Andy Whitfield Story),” to spread awareness about the urgent need to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.
The film is now playing in limited release with LLS chapters hosting a number of public screenings as a way to raise funds and generate awareness for the LLS mission. LLS hopes that Whitfield’s story will also serve as a public testament as to why we support research.
Thanks to research, survival rates for patients with many blood cancers have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled since the early 1960s. However, despite these advances, about one third of patients with a blood cancer (such as Whitfield) still do not survive, which is why funding is needed to bring better therapies to patients faster.
Thanks to Karl-Anthony Towns, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) will be getting a brand new Kia!
The NBA awarded the 2015-16 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Award to Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves on May 16 by handing him keys to a brand new Sorento CUV.
Towns received all 130 first-place votes from a panel of broadcasters and sportswriters in the U.S. and Canada. The seven-foot center set franchise rookie records in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage this season, and his basketball talents are just as commendable as his generosity and compassion.
Town announced that he will be donating his brand new Kia to LLS’s Minnesota chapter in honor of Timberwolves executive and coach, Flip Saunders.
Saunders died in in October after a battle with Hodgkin lymphoma, and his two grandparents died from cancer as well. In honor of Saunders, Towns wore a pin with Saunders’ name on it during his acceptance of the award.
Any funds raised from resale or auction of the Kia will be directly used for supporting LLS’s mission.
The national “Moonshot” initiative is repeatedly making news headlines as the $1 billion effort designed to eliminate cancer has groundbreaking potential. Led by Vice President Joe Biden, the effort is focused on accelerating research and making more therapies available – and blood cancer patients have much to gain.
I recently joined an expert panel at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference, “Promise of the Cancer Moonshot,” to share The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) perspective about what needs to be done to move this effort forward.
I was in good company.
Other speakers included Anna Barker, a professor and director of Arizona State University's Transformative Healthcare Networks; Michelle Bennett, director, Center for Research Strategy, National Cancer Institute; Robert Bradway, chairman and CEO, Amgen; and Isla Garraway, associate professor and director of research at the University of California, Los Angeles. The panel was moderated by Kathy Hudson, deputy director for science, outreach and policy, National Institutes of Health.