Help end blood cancer with CCN

Beginning this month, CCN has begun to set aside 50 cents for every billable hour and has already raised over $1000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Since 2013, CCN Founder Andy Cox has been involved in the fight against blood cancer, and today, he and his team are already gearing up to join the annual Light the Night event in October.

Below, Andy shares how he first got involved in LLS and how you too can join the fight…

How did you first find out about blood cancer?

Back in the late 90s, I was a regular blood donor. I agreed to be on a national marrow donor list, a database that helps get you matched up with someone who needs a transplant. They told me there was a super low chance I would be contacted, but about a year later, I got a call.

I found out I was a potential match for an adolescent who needed a bone marrow transplant in Europe. At first, I was 1 of 16 or so potential matches. I went in for additional blood and testing, then I was 1 of 8, 1 of 3, and then I was it.

“For me, seeing what the families go through is what really makes the difference. No parent wants to hear that their child has cancer.”

In February of 2000, the patient flew into Houston for the transplant. The thing you have to understand about marrow transplants is that they are usually a last resort — the last thing doctors will try to save a life. Once they start killing off the patient’s white blood cells, the donor is the only chance.

That whole experience really opened my eyes. I never did interact with the actual family, but in that hospital you see lots of parents really struggling.

The transplant successfully extended the patient’s life, but later he ultimately succumbed to cancer. After that, I got busy in my career and raising a new family, but it certainly left a mark.

What got you involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?

It wasn’t until 2012 that I got involved with LLS in Austin. A coworker of mine just moved into the market, and she was a survivor of blood cancer. Her friends and family had formed a Light the Night team for her back home, so we created a team to support her here in Austin too.

That was a great experience, and it instantly refreshed my memory, seeing that there are a lot of people going through these incredible challenges. They could be coworkers or neighbors close to you, and you might not even know it. I wanted to continue to help out as much as I can.

After that, I was a team captain, then moved into the Austin Light the Night committee, and then joined their board three years ago.

What do you find so compelling about the fight against blood cancer?

For me, seeing what the families go through is what really makes the difference. No parent wants to hear that their child has cancer.

Kids are so resilient that they often continue to play through treatment. They’re still just kids and often keep that optimism, but behind every child cancer patient, there are parents who are on an emotional roller coaster. All you want is for your kid to have the best options, but it’s so hard to know.

You start empathizing with these families. You want to know how you can help, what you can do… well what you can do is end cancer!

Can we really end cancer?

It sounds like something that can’t be done, but we’re making incredible progress, and LLS is right in the middle of that research and innovation.

The amount of FDA approvals that have happened in the last few years is exponentially higher that it used to be, and these are treatments that can help avoid chemo or radiation.

“we’re making incredible progress [towards ending blood cancer], and LLS is right in the middle of that research and innovation.”

Recently a blood cancer survivor spoke at an LLS meeting. He was given a new pill, and literally within months, he was cured of cancer. He was almost embarrassed to say he had cancer, because he never had any ill effects—no chemo, no hair loss, or anything. It felt like a magic pill.

Stories like that don’t tug at the heartstrings as much as suffering families, but that’s exactly the point! That’s what we want the future of blood cancer to look like. That’s why we’re raising money for research.

How can others help in the fight against cancer?

Blood cancer affects all ages, all ethnicities, all age groups. Research is expensive; this is all about fundraising. We need money and we need volunteers.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is a great organization that is leading the charge. An extremely high percentage of every dollar given goes to funding research and helping people locally. They run very lean and are very effective.

Money raised through Light the Night also goes to direct patient support services right here in Austin. Of course, cancer treatment is expensive, and hugely disruptive to family life. LLS has programs to provide financial assistance for medical bills, transportation, or even utilities.

I can’t think of anything better to do with my time than to help move this forward.

What is Light the Night?

Light the Night is an annual fundraising event that happens in Austin and other cities across the country.

“No matter where you are the mood is the same. Although there is certainly a memorial component to this event, it’s also festive. There’s a lot to celebrate… is a huge, awesome, emotional experience.”

The actual ceremony starts around dark. They present awards for teams, and they have the “honored hero” come up to share their story. Finally everybody has a colored lantern: white is for survivors, yellow is for remembrance, and red is for all the supporters. Everybody who is holding a white lantern moves into the center to the “circle of survivors.” They all raise their lanterns up, and it’s a huge, awesome, emotional experience. Then all five or six thousand people all do the walk with their lanterns with fireworks at the end.

How can we get involved?

By all means, sign up to join the CCN team or create a team of family and friends! You can make a donation to the event or host a fundraiser of your own.

I think it’s a no brainer for companies of any size to participate. There are a lot of reasons for an employer to do an event like this. It’s a great cause, a great opportunity to market if you want to, and a great way to bring your employees together and build comradery.

There are a lot of great charities in Austin, and I understand that. We want to find those people who have a passion and are connected in some way to patients and survivors. Don’t be afraid to ask around, and you will be surprised just how many people you already know who are connected in some way.

At the end of the day, we’re here to end blood cancer.