In 2007, my mom, Barbara Snow, was diagnosed with Leukemia and after three months of painful treatments, blood infections, and waning strength, she left us with broken hearts and a huge hole in our lives. She was the center of our world. My brother and sister, Nancy and Michael Snow, their spouses David Owens and Elizabeth Lemons, along with me and my husband Mark Dockser all chose to raise our families in Reading. This led to my parents becoming part of the social fabric here. Attending all of her 7 grandchildren’s activities, Grammy Barbara was well known in Reading. Her pastries were famous at Killam PTO events; her gazpacho was a favorite of Superintendent Schettini; and her presence at sports and drama events was relished by all who met her. She was a light in our lives until Leukemia tortured and stole her away 3 months later on September 2 at 2 am. Experiencing this devastating loss inspired my niece Abigail Lemons to establish ‘Grammy Barbara’s Light the Night (LTN) Team’ as her Bat Mitzvah Project.
Ever since then, we have been fundraising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS). LLS “is a global leader in the fight against blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.”
How The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Helps
The LLS helped our family when my mom was diagnosed. They provided phone hotlines, informational resources, and parking subsidies for countless trips to Boston Hospitals. When in doubt, we could call LLS for information or support. Unlike my family, Dr. Anna Ornstein’s mother Sofie Brunn did not have the support of the LLS. She had survived multiple Concentration Camps, started an orphanage for the children of those who didn’t survive, and then was killed by leukemia. In her memory, Dr. Ornstein is donating her book “Through my Mother’s Eyes” to people who donate over $72 through Grammy Barbara’s Team.
LLS has also helped so many others near to our hearts – friends and family battling blood and other cancers. So far, Grammy Barbara’s Team has raised over $122,000 to help fund research to find a cure, improve treatments, and support families like ours through the life-changing blood cancer diagnosis.
Team Victoria: a 2-year-olds brave battle
In 2012, Diane Alexander, also from Reading, introduced me to “Team Victoria” created in memory of Victoria Alexander, her daughter, who lost her battle with Leukemia at the age of 2. Over 20 years, they raised over $25,000 in order to give back to an organization that was a great help to their daughter during and after treatment and to enable LLS to continue helping others. Diane wrote:
“This organization holds a very special place in our family’s hearts as we directly benefited from LLS during our daughters eight month stay for treatment of leukemia at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Out of the eight months, Victoria spent only about two–three weeks at home.
“Victoria Rose Alexander was our first born. She was a healthy baby coming into this world weighing 7 lbs 15 oz. She was the first grandchild to her paternal grandparents and the 10th grandchild to her maternal grandparents. At the age of 16th months, she developed what seemed to be a common virus of a high fever and vomiting. After 24 hours of not holding down liquids, we brought her to the ER at Children’s Hospital. Blood work was done with a result of elevated white blood cells and low platelets. Over the course of the next five weeks, we took her twice a week for blood work. She then started developing bruises in odd places and her blood work started going haywire. Lethargy was setting in from anemia. On May 30th 1995, she was scheduled to have a bone marrow aspirate at Children’s. Our worst fears were confirmed: a diagnosis of Acute Mylocytic Leukemia #7 (the rarest form and most difficult leukemias to treat). After a harrowing eight months of chemotherapy and its effects, Victoria sadly succumbed to a deadly lung infection. Her bone marrow was clean of cancer.
“During our stay at Children’s Hospital, a staff member mentioned that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society offers financial assistance to families to help with the hardships faced when going through treatment. The Society in result was able to pay for cost of parking of almost $1000.
“This is just one of the many ways the Leukemia Society helps families facing their world being completely turned upside down by a life-threatening illness. Research, medical expenses not covered by insurance, educational materials, meals, and yes parking are just a few of the many ways the Society helps support patients and their families affected by blood related disorders.
“Although we have been blessed with three healthy vibrant children since losing our beloved Victoria, there will always be an empty place at the table, a graduation she never got to attend, a boy never to kiss, and a wedding aisle never to walk down. We miss her dearly and pray that someday no one will suffer the pain of losing their child to cancer.”
Hope from Research
Cancer is cruel, but there is hope! Two years after Grammy Barbara died, a grandmother walked next to me at the Light the Night Walk. She had been given the exact same diagnosis as my mom, was the same age, and had the same prognosis. However, thanks to trial research, she had been given a new treatment and was as a result “cancer-free”. She was surrounded by her grandchildren and family who were also raising funds for a cure… That could have been my mom, just two years later. This is progress we want to continue! That is why Team Victoria and Grammy Barbara’s Team have worked so hard to raise much needed donations. And it is working, but not quickly or completely enough.
A childhood friend, Vicki Katzman, survived her war with Leukemia thanks to a treatment originally researched via LLS funding. Vicki has been giving back since then, working with survivors in Washington State, making donations, and matching donations for Grammy Barbara’s Team. For years, Grammy Barbara’s Team has been celebrating her birthday and her survival at the LTN walk. She, like so many others, however, is suffering from the after-effects of her treatments – late onset type 1 diabetes. LLS not only strives to find a cure, it also funds research to improve treatments – and the treatments are getting less caustic and more generalized to help treat other cancers! (https://www.lls.org) In fact, the targeted cell therapy first funded by LLS is now being used to combat different cancers including ovarian cancer which took my mother-in-law Cheryl Dockser last October.
It is clear that together we can make a difference and are! To ensure faster progress, LLS policy encourages collaboration NOT patents that restrict sharing. So much of “the LLS funded research is being approved by the FDA – over 70% of the FDA-approved blood cancer treatments since 2016 were funded by the LLS! And more in the last few months!” (LLS.org) With research results shared, progress happens faster. For so many reasons like this, last year I joined the Executive Challenge Team to raise more funding.
It costs money to fund research, improve treatments, and support families – that is where ‘Light the Night’ Teams come in. We have appreciated the donations of so many people, including the donations of redeemable bottles and cans. Every nickel adds up! We have raised over $1200 in nickels, thanks to the willingness of Eastgate Liquors in North Reading and Liquor Junction in Reading to accept them whether or not they were bought in their store. Donations from Elysee Jewelers, Okemo Capital, Boston Road Chiropractic amongst others have helped, along with employers’ matching gifts. Every donation helps, no matter what size!
Please help us put an end to this pain and loss. To donate, you can use this link for Grammy Barbara’s Team https://pages.lls.org/ltn/ma/BostonL23/ldockser. To send a check, please make it out to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and send it to me with Grammy Barbara’s LTN Team on the memo line. Private message or call me for more info.
Thank you so much for your support and for spreading the word!!!
Linda Snow Dockser