Blood Cancer Awareness, TNT

Photo Courtesy of: Kristen Abner

Photo Courtesy of: Kristen Abner

Hannah Abner, EMS Press Staff

The team is called Team in Training, (TNT) and, as members, I, my mom and my brother run for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society (LLS). Other members of TNT walk, bike, hike, and sail for the cause. We ask for donors and sponsors, then we race for a cure. A cure for blood cancer. The money we receive goes to research, patient aid and family support . The family support and patient aid makes sure everyone is as comfortable as possible, but the research can and will save lives.

The members of this team push through the miles. We push through the pain. The hills. The blisters. The curves and the straights. The sore muscles. Day after day. Whether it’s training, or the race itself, we are out there to save lives. All wearing our purple shirts that unite us as one. Always having each other’s backs. Running the 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and full blown marathons. All 26.2 miles of them. Biking hundreds of miles. Completing Ironmans, triathlons, relays, and tours. All over the world. Asking everyone to help. To donate. Selflessly. Never giving up. The struggle of facing the miles seems to symbolize the pain those with blood cancer go through. Because they can keep fighting, we can finish the race. Some do this because they have lost loved ones to leukemia, and they want to go back in time to change the results. Then go to the future and save those who will suffer, because no family should ever have to go through that. Or maybe they themselves have fought through the disease and never gave up. Pushed to the end. Pushed until they made sure it was over. Always fighting. Those kind of people are our inspiration, and they are amazing. Or maybe people do it simply because they want to help. They know how terrible this disease is, and they don’t want it to continue. Whatever the reason, we unite, and fight for a cure. One of TNT’s greatest mottos is “run as if someone’s life depends on it.”

Leukemia is a cancer in your blood, caused by an increase of white blood cells. There isn’t really anything you can do to prevent it. When you have leukemia your body produces more white cells than necessary. The white cells that are produced by leukemia can’t fight illnesses they way normal white cells do. So over time, there aren’t enough red blood cells to supply oxygen to your body, and not enough normal white cells to fight infections. Over all Leukemia is not a very common disease, but it appears most often in children and teens. In 2017 it is expected that almost 6,000 people will be diagnosed with leukemia in the United states alone. It seems that this disease is unstoppable.

But recently there was a huge breakthrough in studies. Researchers at University of Michigan found new treatments for the disease, and they have named it CAR-T. The T-cells in the body are collected and sent to a lab, where they are re-engineered to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. The CARs now allow the T-cells to pinpoint the foreign substance on the targeted tumor cells. The CAR-T cells are multiplied, then sent to the hospital and transferred into the patient. The CAR-T cells will now target and kill the cancerous cells inside the patient.  Kristen Abner, a mom of two, and runner for TNT is still asking people to give money.

“The treatments have improved, but this still isn’t a cure,” she said. September is blood cancer awareness month, and she wants everyone to know.

Abner joined TNT in 1988 because she turned 30. But that wasn’t the only reason.

“I joined to do something bigger than myself,” she said. She didn’t know anyone with leukemia.

In 2008, Abner turned 40. By then, she was married and had two healthy children. She again decided she wanted to give back and support others in need.  With TNT, she ran her second marathon. Over the years, Abner has raised over $60,000 dollars for LLS, and has run six marathons, and three half marathons for TNT.

Her favorite was the New York City marathon.

Because my husband and I finished together,” she said.

Abner encourages people to join TNT.

“Anybody can do it, but you have to be committed, and believe in yourself and what you’re doing,” she said. “TNT has fabulous coaches and training programs, and really supportive mentors.”

After watching my mom’s sixth marathon, I decided I wanted to join the fight. I had helped in the past with bake sales and garage sales to raise money for LLS, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to run. I ran my first 10k, and my first race for TNT last spring, in the Bayshore. It was an amazing thing to be a part of. To see other members of the team, and even though we were exhausted, we would raise each other’s spirits with an enthusiastic “Go team!” As a family, we raised $5,300 dollars. It was incredible to see our name on the screen, next to a large number like that. We were one of the top fundraisers. We went to the inspiration dinner the night before the race and I was truly touched. We saw a slide show of all the people we were running in honor of, and listened to people’s stories about why they joined TNT. You could feel the strength of all the people there that night. I was greatly moved, and tears filled the room around me. I was now part of a family, and this bond couldn’t be broken. We all came together with one sole purpose — to help those in need. I knew that what I was participating in was life changing.

And finally, if you have donated, we want to say thank you. Because you have chosen to support this important cause. Because of you, we have found advanced treatments, and can save a lot of people. But this isn’t a cure. We still need your help if we want to get rid of blood cancer for good. Unfortunately, not everyone is as generous. I’ve heard that you can’t take fundraising personally, but after struggling to get people to donate myself last spring, it’s hard not to. With two Instagram posts, and 10 letters, you’d think more that a couple people would realise that this isn’t a joke, and step up to give support. Team in training started in 1988 by Bruce Cleland at the New York City Marathon. He had a daughter with leukemia. More and more people joined the fight, asked for donations, and started running. If people hadn’t shrugged, and walked away, if people had chosen to donate, it wouldn’t have taken this long to advance in treatments. But, here we are.

We have the technology, and the treatment. And we aren’t finished yet. We are going to keep fighting until blood cancer is a thing of the past, and no less deadly than a common cold. We will find a cure. Nothing will stop us. Go to https://donate.lls.org/lls/donate to donate, any amount. Anything will help. If you want to participate in an event for TNT go to http://www.teamintraining.org/search-events But if you want to do more, you can. You can join the fight. Join TNT. Join us. Go to http://www.teamintraining.org/ to learn more.