The Time to Serve is Now. Just Do It.

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Kara Ford's picture
Kara Ford

 

I’m honored to be named a candidate for this year’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Man & Woman of the Year campaign. Each year, LLS selects a dozen or so candidates to raise donations over the course of 10 weeks -- and honors the top two fundraisers (one woman/one man) at the end.

 

I’ve got to be honest. When Jennie Brewster, area director for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Georgia Chapter, first approached me in 2016 to take this campaign on, I immediately thought of a million reasons why I couldn’t, and in fact, told her the time was just not right for me. Work was super busy and I had a young child (and husband) at home who required the rest of my energy when not at APR.

 

A few months later, Michael Caputo, a former MWOY candidate and BankSouth Mortgage market production manager, invited my husband and me to the LLS Gala (May 2016). We decided to go and I was excited for a chance to learn more. At the event, there were two sets of parents who shared first-hand accounts of life with children waging battles against cancer. The ‘Girl of the Year’ was an inspiration. A true fighter. She was a blood cancer survivor and was making sure every day on this earth counted. The ‘Boy of the Year,’ Jonathan Thomas, was only two years old, but simply adorable bouncing around the event in his little tux.

 

At seven months old, Jonathan was diagnosed with infantile Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) just before Thanksgiving 2014. His little body endured multiple rounds of chemo and subsequent painful side effects. By now, we all understand what chemo does to the body. While it kills bad cells, it also kills good ones. Despite all of this, Jonathan's parents were hopeful he was out of the woods!

 

When I learned Jonathan suddenly relapsed the following September and died on Thursday, November 17, 2016, I was numb. Jonathan was a mere two and a half years old -- the same age as my own son, Logan. While I did not know Jonathan, but his death affected me in a profound way.

 

At that point, I decided there was no way I could not help. So here I am, three weeks to go in this 10-week campaign to support LLS’s mission to cure leukemia, lympure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

 

I've learned so much along the way. The stories of survival, loss, and battles being waged are all crowding my mind and have given me the courage to do this. You never want to find yourself -- or your child for that matter -- on the other side of the stethoscope. But if you do, wouldn't you take comfort in knowing there are so many people out there willing to give up their money, time, and energy in tireless pursuit of a cure? I would.

We’re all called at various points in our life to serve. My one token of advice for my professional peers would be to just do it. Don’t be afraid of the time commitment and all of the normal fears that come with an added project. Any amount of yourself you can offer will be worth it!

 

Photo caption: Gabrielle (left), diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma at age 8, and Daniel (right), diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia at age 5, stand with Kara as survivors.

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