Why I Return Guest Blog Column – Jennette Sison

I return season after season to Portland2014Team In Training (TNT) because TNT provides me with my running family. My teammates and coaches, especially Coach Al and Coach Rudy, keep me accountable with my training and are VERY motivating yet sensitive to any issues I may have.

Before TNT I used to just run, but with TNT I run with a cause! I never realized that without a cause to run, I also lacked motivation. It was once I decided to train for a full marathon with TNT that I realized I could challenge myself, my mind and my body. The fact that my efforts with TNT aren’t just for myself but for cancer honorees – patients, survivors, their families and MeNCoachAlresearchers – gives me the drive and inspiration to push past any negative thoughts and realize that I can actually make a difference.

My biggest motivation to return to TNT season after season is Coach Alphonzo Jackson, known in Team In Training as Coach Al. His enthusiasm for running and genuine care for cancer patients and survivors is contagious. I return, not only as a participant, but as a mentor and captain because I truly enjoy watching new TNT participants evolve from tentative individuals to team members who have gained the mental strength and willpower they need to cross the finish line.

When I first joined Team In Training, I hadNike_pic2011_1 no personal connection to blood cancer but along the way I’ve met so many inspiring people who have allowed me to run in their honor. It’s been an amazing ride for me, season after season, and I’ve witnessed how the researched funded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has helped cancer survivors. Unfortunately, I have also shed many tears when treatment just wasn’t enough, which always ignites that ember in me to sign up for yet another season to help raise funds and continue to hope that someday will be today!

Jennette Sison is a Team In Training East Bay Run Team participant and alumni. Jennette has participated with TNT for eight seasons and counting, and has served as a mentor or captain for many of those seasons. She most recently ran the Nike Women’s Half Marathon San Francisco in October.

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Jim Alfieri, Celebrating 15 Years with Team In Training!

We are very lucky to have committed volunteers who drive our mission of creating a world without blood cancers. This summer we honored one special volunteer who celebrated 15 years with Team In Training – Jim Alfieri!

Jim is a very familiar name and face within The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) community and Team In Training (TNT) IMG_8153family in the North Bay. For the last 15 years, Jim has served as a TNT participant, mentor, volunteer and captain and has raised an incredible total of $41,000! Jim first got involved with TNT in the late 90’s and his first event was the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska in June 2000. Since then, Jim has been involved in nearly every single North Bay season and has become a constant fixture for TNTers.

Although there have been too many to count, one of Jim’s favorite set of memories from TNT includes seeing young honorees conquer their challenges and grow into fine, healthy and strong adults. The honorees are the ones who really inspire Jim and keep him coming back to Team In Training year after year.

Thank you Jim for your dedicated commitment to Team In Training, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and blood cancer research for the last 15 years!

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Chum, a Tribute to Phish, at The Chapel Benefiting LLS


Don’t miss San Francisco’s only Phish tribute band Chum as they host a fantastic evening of music, fun, partying and fundraising at The Chapel on Saturday, July 11 at 8:30 pm! Tickets for Chum’s latest concert are now on sale for $15 and a third of all proceeds will benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Buy tickets today

The LLS mission is very close and personal for the members of Chum. Chum’s keyboardist and vocalist John Greene is an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) survivor and is one of the leaders of the Salesforce.com Light The Night team. John has also been a generous supporter to anyone affected by AML or any form of blood cancer in LLS’s Greater Bay Area community.

So if you’re a fan of Phish, want to help find a cure for blood cancers or looking for a great time, join us on July 11 at The Chapel as Chum plays two sets of Phish covers and supports The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Learn more on the event page or buy tickets today!

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Monterey Bay Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale!

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) recently celebrated its 4th Annual Monterey Bay Man & Woman of the Year campaign at its Grand Finale Gala at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa on Saturday, May 16! IMG_1066The evening was the culmination of 10-weeks of hard work for the Man & Woman of the Year candidates, which included Sahin Gunsel, Christopher Payne and Heather Ream, as well as corporate teams Driscoll’s, Keller Williams and Naturipe.

Over 200 guests were in attendance to watch the unveiling of the 2015 Monterey Bay Man of the Year, Woman of the Year and Corporate Team of the Year winners. The program included speeches from the 2014 Monterey Bay Woman of the Year Cathy Sampognaro, IMG_11932013 Monterey Bay Woman of the Year and Executive Committee Co-Chair Jennifer Willoughby, 2012 Man of the Year and Executive Committee member Ben Beesley, and Boy of the Year CJ’s mother. Of course both CJ and Syree, our 2015 Monterey Bay Boy & Girl of the Year, made appearances and received special awards which were met by big rounds of applause!

The 2014 Monterey Bay Man & Woman of the Year winners, IMG_1198Hakan Erdinc and Cathy Sampognaro, announced this year’s winners – Chris Payne as Man of the Year who raised over $23,000, Heather Ream as Woman of the Year who raised over $28,000 and Driscoll’s as Corporate Team of the Year who raised over $104,000!

Congratulations to Chris, Heather and Driscoll’s as well as all of our candidates who are a big reason why Someday Is Today!

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Come to our Team In Training Alumni Thank You Event!

Are you an awesome #TeamInTraining alum? Let us show our thanks and join us at our Team In Training Alumni Thank You event at Flywheel Sports at 331 W Washington Avenue, Sunnyvale! TNT is partnering up with Flywheel, an indoor cycling studio, to host a free cycle class on Monday, May 18 at 6:30 pm. There are only 48 bikes available in this class so reserve your spot today, RSVP to Vanessa.Orcutt@lls.org! All alumni are welcome to reserve a spot for 1 guest as well.

May 18th will be TNT Day at Flywheel Sports, so don’t forget to wear your Team In Training shirt! Flywheel will be offering free shoes for everyone who attends the class and anyone who is registered with TNT will always receive a discount at this studio. If you’re not able to attend or if the event fills up before you’re able to RSVP, we will be hosting a TNT mixer at Lilly Mac’s from 7 – 9 pm.

RSVP today, email Vanessa.Orcutt@lls.org!

TNT FlyWheel

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The 2015 North Bay Man & Woman of the Year Kickoff!

Last week The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Greater Bay Area Chapter officially kicked off the 2015 North Bay Man & Woman of the Year campaign at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa! Over 50 guests, consisting of candidates, supporters, honorees and their families, came to celebrate the official start of the campaign.

Photos by Colson Griffith Photography - www.colsongriffith.comIt was a very special evening, not only because it was our first opportunity to officially honor our 2015 candidates, but because we were able to celebrate our 2015 Girl of the Year Anniston’s sixth birthday! Anniston was given cupcakes and balloons and the 2015 Boy of the Year Jayden sang happy birthday to her on stage.

The event also included moving speeches from Michelle Heston, a member of our North Bay Advisory Board, Anniston’s mom Stacey, LLS staff and last year’s Woman of the Year Jennifer Buffo, who was awarded the LLS Top Fundraiser Recognition award for raising over $80,000 during her campaign. Not only was she given her award, Jennifer also had the pleasure of announcing our candidates and read a quote from their nominators on why they chose these individuals to champion our cause.

The 2015 North Bay Man & Woman of the Year candidates include:

  • Tom Schmidt, John Ash & Co./Vintners Photos by Colson Griffith Photography - www.colsongriffith.comInn
  • Wendi Thomas, St. Joseph Health/Petaluma Valley Hospital
  • Monica Garcia, Nelson Staffing
  • Marc Canas, City of Santa Rosa
  • Bob Padecky, Santa Rosa Press Democrat
  • Jamie Sahouria, Pediatric Dentist

The 10-week North Bay Man & Woman of the Year campaign will culminate at the Grand Finale Celebration on June 20, 2015 at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma.  Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased here.

To learn more about our 2015 candidates, Jayden and Anniston, the campaign or make a donation, please click here!

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The 25th Anniversary Bay Area Man & Woman of the Year Kickoff!

IMG_6640Last night The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Northern California Chapter officially kicked off the 25th Anniversary Bay Area Man & Woman of the Year campaign at the Carolands Chateau in Hillsborough! Over 100 guests were hosted to reveal and celebrate this year’s 14 candidates vying for the title of the 2015 Bay Area Man & Woman of the Year.

The evening featured an exciting program with an introduction from LLS Board Chair Tom Klein, a mission presentation from LLS Senior Manager of Patient Access & Education Lauren Hall, powerful speeches from the parents of the 2015 Boy and Girl of the Year Jack and Celia, and an introduction to the 14 candidates by Annie Flaig, 2010 Silicon Valley Woman of the Year and LLS Board Member. The entire audience was thrilled to meet this year’s candidates and was completely taken by the true heroes of the campaign, Jack and Celia!

The 2015 Bay Area Man & Woman of the IMG_6649Year candidates include:

  • Arelene Go
  • Ashton Wright
  • Dr. Babis Andreadis
  • Devon Crews
  • Dmitry Kras
  • John Clamme
  • KK Cressman
  • Leslie Soto
  • Lisa Cooper
  • Molly Diedrich
  • Reed Adler
  • Rumiko McCarthy
  • Dr. Sheila Shahabi
  • Vishal Gurbuxani

IMG_6647The 10-week Bay Area Man & Woman of the Year campaign will culminate at the 25thAnniversary Grand Finale on June 6, 2015 at the Fairmont San Francisco. Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased here.

To learn more about our 2015 candidates, Jack and Celia, the campaign or to make a donation, please visit www.mwoy.org/BayArea.

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Guest Blog: The Promise of Cures: ASH14 – Ben Wang, founder of Team Kim

It seemed so out of place; 20,000 hematologists were intermingled with the typical palette of hipsters, transients and nuclear families in the SOMA district of San Francisco.  They might have been mistaken for slightly nerdy vampires, the world’s experts in blood.  It seemed equally strange that I found myself in the midst of this scene, but the fact was that I had always wanted to come to American Society of Hematology’s 2014 meeting (ASH14), more so now that our Team Kim efforts at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon had ended.  Despite raising a quarter million dollars for research towards a cure for blood cancers, I was left feeling as if there were more to be done.


When you find yourself impacted by leukemia, or any cancer for that matter, it is a very human instinct to grasp for a foothold, to stabilize the dizzying reality that your loved one is dying.  For me it was in 2012 when Kim’s diagnosis came back as cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with Trisomy 8 and an NPM1 mutation.  Not only did I know that the prognosis wasn’t good, I didn’t know what Kim was dying from.  We contacted physician friends, studied internet research, examined clinical trials and crammed for an imminent final.  Living and breathing AML day in and day out, I quickly learned what epigenetic modifiers were, that diphtheria could be used as an anti-tumor agent and a dozen acronyms for various combinational chemotherapy protocols.  ASH2014_5After two years of cramming, well, the final came and we didn’t pass.  After the fact I wanted to know what answers we got wrong and how we could’ve answered them correctly.  Kim, always the perfectionist since our days together in college, would’ve wanted it that way, with extra credit.

So this is how I ended up at the teacher’s office – ASH14.  The lead up to the conference was bubbly.  An effervescent feeling percolated the conference, with new insights borne out of low cost DNA sequencing and progress with outside-the-box treatments.  The optimism came from Dr. Lewis Silverman who talked about improving the long-term lives of children cured of ALL, and from Dr. Julia Maxson and her collaborator Dr. Brian Druker about next generation AML drugs and targets.  The crown jewel of the conference was Dr. Carl June and his colleagues’ presentations on CAR T-cell work, where patients own immune systems are engineered to beat leukemia, which is showing excellent response and hope for FDA approval.  I noted that in all of this cutting-edge work, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) was a research sponsor in nearly every case.

A personally important update came from Dr. Eytan Stein of Memorial Sloan Kettering, who shared data about compounds called IDH inhibitors.  The recent results of these medicines for AML patients with IDH mutation were very good, with half of the patients showing good clinical response, all from taking a pill with no toxic chemotherapy!  While promising for patients, this data unfortunately came from the clinical trial was too late for Kim.  Hearing the results, I tried to focus on how happy she would’ve been in finding the right path for herself, having dug through dozens of candidate clinical trials.  She would have been happy to see such good progress against AML.

ASH2014_1I also ran into a hematologist who treated Kim when we were first admitted.  She was presenting promising pre-clinical results of a new inhibitor against real patients’ AML cells.  I recognized her and walked up to her and could note confusion in her face.  When you are a cancer patient, or part of a patient’s family, you cannot be certain that the hospital staff’s compassion was heartfelt or that the bedside manner was feigned.  Her confusion turned to recognition and surprise as she blurted out “Ben!” and gave me a warm embrace.  Indeed why would you ever expect to see someone you only see in the private rooms of the neutropenic hematology floor in the conference hallways of blood dork-dom?  It seems that we do build human bonds through the cold façade of the clinic.  We chatted about her poster, which incidentally included promising data using Kim’s cells.  And yes, this work was funded by the LLS too.

Did I accomplish what I had set out to see and feel?  I left ASH feeling absolutely certain that we are on the verge of beating blood cancers and that research is making a difference.  The funds raised through LLS and the hard work of Team In Training (TNT) and TNTers were making an impact on next generation therapies with lower side effects and better results.  You could see it in the excitement behind the pressed shirts, neat ties and PowerPoint presentations once a year at ASH.  It was bittersweet though.  This optimism can’t change anything for Kim.  But we all know, are or have a Kim.  That’s worth running for, raising money for and fighting for in our own ways.

Ben Wang is a Team In Training alumni and founder of Team Kim, a nationwide group of TNT participants who raised over $250,000 while training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in 2014. Follow Team Kim’s story at www.goteamkim.com and learn more about Kim and www.kimbwang.com.

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2015 Northern California Blood Cancer Conference

We were honored to host 740 guests on January 24th Photos by Colson Griffith Photography - www.colsongriffith.comat the 2015 Northern California Blood Cancer Conference, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) annual free blood cancer conference!

The event took place at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where guests started the day with breakfast and opening remarks from Lauren Wilkerson Hall, Senior Manager of Patient Access & Education, followed by a presentation on LLS’s mission from Aaron Czyzewski, Regional Mission Director, and an important talk on how attendees can get involved and advocate for blood cancer patients from Sharon Ladin, Executive Director of Advocacy.

Photos by Colson Griffith Photography - www.colsongriffith.comWe then welcomed our keynote speaker, Ethan Zohn, two-time Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, former American professional soccer player and winner of Survivor: Africa. Ethan gave his acclaimed speech “The Ultimate Survivor” which was a touching story of his experiences and successes from winning Survivor: Africa and all of the hurdles and challenges he had to overcome to become a two-time blood cancer survivor. He received a standing ovation and even had time to answer questions from attendees in the audience.

After the keynote speech, guests headed to breakout sessions hosted by leading physicians who presented new and exciting information on their field of expertise.  The breakout sessions included:

Acute Myeloid Leukemia: Bruno Medeiros, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia: Steven Coutre, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia: Neil Shah, M.D., Ph.D.
Edward S. Ageno Distinguished Professor in Hematology/Oncology; Leader, Hematopoietic Malignancies Program, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCSF

Multiple Myeloma: Thomas Martin, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of the Myeloma Institute, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCSF

Myelodyplastic Syndromes: Brian Jones, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (High Grade/Aggressive): Ranjana Advani, M.D. 
Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (Low Grade/Indolent): C. Babis Andreadis, M.D., MSCE 
Associate Professor, Hematology and BMT Program, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCSF

Pediatric Blood Cancers: Mignon Loh, M.D.
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital

Photos by Colson Griffith Photography - www.colsongriffith.comThank you to all of our guests and incredible speakers and presenters for making the Northern California Blood Cancer Conference a big success!  A big thank you to our sponsors, Boehringer Ingelheim, Genentech, Gilead, Pfizer, Pharmacyclics, Onyx, Seattle Genetics, Takeda and Teva Pharmaceuticals, and to our partners, including the Association of Northern California Oncologists, Stanford Cancer Center, University of California San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cancer CAREpoint, and Kids & Art.

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Reckless Racers

If you haven’t heard of the app Reckless Racers, you’ll want to download it, especially since 100% of the proceeds from the first 1,000 downloads will be donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training (TNT)! This app was developed by teenager Jack Connolly to support his father’s fight against cancer. Read about Jack’s story from his own words:

When I was 8 years-old, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, which he’s been battling for 9 years now. After many years of chemotherapy and operations he’s home on disability and able to keep going with the help of intravenous nutrition. My best friend has also fought cancer, 3 times in his life, once in kindergarten and then again in 5th and 11th grade. He’s faced treatments, lost his hair and missed school.

I’ve been saddened by their suffering, but moved by their strength and spirit. I’ve watched my community rally around my dad and my best friend, and was inspired by the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, which benefits LLS every year.

Growing up with a sick parent makes you self-reliant and makes you realize you need to be able to take care of yourself as soon as you’re able. My mom encouraged me to take a software class where I discovered I love writing code and started spending my summers and weekends teaching myself JAVA, C+, IOS and more. Finally, last November, I created an iPhone game called Reckless Racers, a multi-player car race game launched after 9 months and hundreds of hours of development.

Now I want to give back to the community that inspired me. 100% of the proceeds from the first 1,000 downloads of Reckless Racers will be donated to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training campaign.

My goal is for people to enjoy the game, while raising money for cancer research. Here’s a video that shows what Reckless Racers is like. I hope you’ll take a look and support my cause.

Sincerely, Jack Connolly

Learn more about Reckless Racers or download it today at http://bit.ly/RecklessRacers or https://www.facebook.com/RecklessRacers!


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