Raising Awareness for Leukemia & Lymphoma and How You Can Support the Fight Against Blood Cancers

Kyla Fung, Staff Writer

Every 3 minutes, a person in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer, a life-changing and, in certain cases, life-ending disease affecting over 170,000 people in the United States alone. Not only does blood cancer affect many elders but also many children and teens. In fact, leukemia (a type of blood cancer) is the most common childhood cancer and is  the second leading cause of cancer deaths among people under 20. 


Unfortunately, blood cancer victims are subject to long years of aggressive chemotherapy treatment, during which the patient loses their hair and their sense of taste and is drained of their energy. Consequently, this is a challenging ordeal for anyone undergoing treatment, but it is especially tough on the young. Blood cancer robs children of a proper childhood, forcing them to spend weeks or even years in the hospital with limited social interaction and insufficient energy to do the things a normal child would do. 


Kylie Gifford, ‘22, emphasized the extreme difficulties blood cancer causes for the patient and their families, stressing the sad fact that “not everyone diagnosed with leukemia or other blood cancers wins their battle.”


She has had two close connections to families affected by blood cancer – her best friend’s sister, who fortunately survived, and a family friend’s son, who died of blood cancer at just six years old, mere days after being diagnosed. 


Though Gifford’s friend’s sister survived, she still had to endure three difficult years with leukemia. 


Gifford recalled how “after being in a coma for 14 days, [the girl] finished chemo treatment,” but that she still had to “relearn how to walk and talk.” 

Because of her close ties to families affected by blood cancer, Gifford became part of a fundraising campaign called “Students of the Year” run by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).


LLS is a non-profit organization that has been leading the fight against blood cancers globally. By gathering donations and money through fundraisers, LLS has been able to make significant contributions to groundbreaking work to find cures and medications for blood cancers. In addition to their work to find a cure, they also provide education and support for those affected.


Through the combined efforts of blood cancer organizations all around the world, advanced research and treatment have significantly increased the five-year survival rate for childhood blood cancers. The lowest survival rate is now 50% for juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, and the highest survival rate is now about 90% for acute lymphocytic leukemia. Though different cancer types vary in their numbers, survival rates among all blood cancer patients have grown steadily in the past six decades, with the general survival rate for leukemia progressing from about 14% in 1963, to 34% in 1975, to 45% in 1990, to 66% from 2009-2015.


Every year, LLS holds a fundraising event from January 7 – February 28, with Kylie’s Student of the Year team at the helm.

Gifford said that she “want[s] to raise money to help lift weight off parents’ shoulders through their children’s treatments […] and, most importantly, help find a cure so that no one dies from blood cancer.”


Jennifer Anderson, Staff and Campaign development manager for the Minneapolis/St.Paul LLS Students of the Year campaign, urges anyone who is able to donate to consider contributing to LLS’s mission of developing cures for blood cancers and helping affected patients and families. She said that “every dollar counts” and that each donation “truly makes a difference in the lives of people affected by blood cancers.” 


A donation of $50 helps fund LLS educational materials for healthcare providers and their patients, $150 helps fund general lab supplies for one week to help LLS-funded researchers conduct laboratory work needed to develop blood cancer treatments and $250 helps defray the costs of treatment related to travel for a patient. 


To donate or to find more information about donating, check out my personal fundraising page here or use the following link:  https://events.lls.org/mn/mplsSOY21/kfungj.


If any students have any further questions or would like to be included in the email list for more details or to possibly become a donor, fill out this quick Google form.