If you’ve spent any time with me online (or in person!), you know that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLSUSA) is one of my main causes.
Many of my Charity Miles have been for LLSUSA.
I participated in the United NYC Half Marathon in March 2015 as part of Team in Training for LLSUSA. Whereas I originally thought my March half marathon was going to be a “one and done” effort for LLSUSA, I felt differently after completing the race.
I feel differently because I know our fundraising efforts ARE making a difference, as seen in the recent approval of Darzalex for patients with previously treated Multiple Myeloma.
I feel differently because every step I take as part of Team in Training takes me into the orbit of someone else I grow to care about, from whom I simply can’t walk away, like Justin Karpf.
I met Justin, who is the honored hero at the upcoming FSU Light the Night walk, when I went to the Tequila and Tapas fundraiser at Madison Social in October. When I arrived, I noticed a young man in an LLS shirt. We talked about many things, including his law studies, his involvement in children’s health issues (yay!), and his girlfriend in New York. It wasn’t until he turned around and I saw that his shirt said “survivor,” that I realized he wasn’t just another patron there for the tequila and tapas.
Justin agreed to share his story:
My name is Justin Karpf. When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was about to start my senior year at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in May 2012. I did not feel particularly ill before being diagnosed, but I felt some soreness under my left arm. During a routine check-up that month, I told my doctor about it, which quickly led to scans, a diagnosis, and biopsies. Luckily, my doctors caught the cancer early and I was able to start treatment shortly after the diagnosis. I was involved with several student organizations and planned to spend the summer at UCF, but I ended up taking the summer and fall semesters off for chemotherapy and radiation.
After I was diagnosed, treatment started almost immediately. I started with 6 rounds of chemotherapy, which started the week after my 21st birthday. During chemo, I lost my hair and a lot of my strength. Though I responded well to the treatment, I had to stay home most of the time because of how low my white blood cell count was, which also led to dietary restrictions. After chemo, I had a month of radiation treatment. By the time I finished radiation, some of my hair had started to come back and I was able to eat and exercise normally again. My cancer was in remission when I finished treatment, and has been for over 2 years now.
I still need to get scans twice a year and see my oncologists, but I have been able to get my life back on track. I graduated UCF in May 2013 and am now in my second year of law school at Florida State University (FSU). My strength and hair have returned, but my life will never be the same; there is always the risk of relapse or a secondary cancer looming over me, but I am determined to continue working towards my goals and not living in fear. I am fortunate that I was able to overcome this disease thanks to the amazing medical professionals that oversaw my treatment, as well as the support from my family, friends, and organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
Last year, I was a Team Captain and Honored Hero for LLS in Tallahassee and am privileged to do the same this year. Light the Night is a great way to raise money for a great cause; the money we raise at events like Light the Night truly helps to save lives. Thank you to everybody who has walked with us before and welcome to those who are just joining us!
Ways You Can Help:
Make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society here (so Justin gets the credit!).
Join us Thursday, November 19, 2015, at Langford Green at 5:30 at FSU for the Light the Night festivities and walk.
Download the Rock My Run app on iPhone or Android, redeem the code PAULAK, and $1 will go to LLSUSA. Download it and then delete it next week if you really don’t care about the app, but I would appreciate the dollar for LLSUSA. (AND, the app is incredible; I use it almost exclusively for my fitness music needs!).
Note: Justin’s story also appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat.
There are many great causes out there, and I enjoy supporting lots of different efforts. This one is at the top of my list and will be for the foreseeable future, for Mary Jane, Justin, and all the others for whom leukemia and lymphoma are part of their stories…..
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.