LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 28, 2013) – Kristopher Shera of Frankfort is the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center's candidate for the 2013 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Man of the Year. Shera, who was treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma last year at Markey, is the first patient to serve as UK's official candidate for the campaign.
Each year, the LLS conducts a 10-week fundraising campaign. Participants from across the nation raise money in honor of children in their state who are impacted by blood cancer. This year, the candidates for the Kentucky & Southern Indiana Chapter of the LLS are raising money in honor of Ryan Northcutt, a 5-year-old boy receiving maintenance chemotherapy for Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and Laekin Risinger, a 5-year-old girl who is a Burkitt’s lymphoma survivor.
Shera, 31, first came to Markey last April after receiving his diagnosis. Under the care of hematologist Dr. Kevin McDonagh, Shera underwent four months of chemotherapy and has been in remission since August 2012. When Shera decided he wanted to find a way to help raise money to support research for blood cancers, he asked McDonagh how he could help.
"Kris Shera is a remarkable young man who has overcome a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and wants to do everything he can to benefit patients and families who may confront the same diagnosis," McDonagh said. "Kris understands that he personally benefitted from prior research into new treatments for lymphoma, and he is passionate about supporting new discoveries for this disease. He chose to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because of their strong commitment to research in blood cancers."
Funds raised through the Man of the Year campaign go directly to the LLS, an organization whose mission is to fund research and treatments for blood cancers while helping improve the quality of life for patients and their families. The LLS provides a number of services for patients, including educational materials and financial assistance with medicinal or travel expenses.
For Shera, the opportunity to make a difference in a future patient's life was the motivating factor. When he learned of the drug he would be taking for treatment — Rituxan — he researched it thoroughly and discovered that the drug had been supported and funded through the LLS. Prior to the development of Rituxan, the drugs used for treatment were approximately 40-50 percent effective in achieving clinical remission, Shera says, while the addition of Rituxan increased the chance of remission to 80 percent or more in many patients.
"Fifteen years ago, there were people like me raising money to help develop drugs that helped me today," Shera said. "Rituxan is about 80-90 percent effective at eliminating the cancer. And the next drug that could be 100 percent effective is out there."
During the 10-week campaign, which begins March 28, Shera hopes to raise $30,000 for the LLS. He has several fundraising events in the works, including a benefit concert on Friday, April 19, at Buddy's Pizza in Frankfort, Ky. The concert will feature a performance by local band 5-Second Rule and donations will be taken at the door. Shera also has a personal fundraising page set up through the LLS for those who wish to contribute.
Shera and the other regional candidates will find out the results of their efforts at the Grand Finale celebration at the Galt House in Louisville on June 7.
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