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Fundraising walk a light in the darkness for those with blood cancer

'Small but mighty' event raises funds for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada

In 2014, Peter Wideman was giving his then three-year-old son Kurtis a piggyback ride when he noticed a painful lump on his shoulder.

After visiting the doctor for tests, he was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer called Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I thank (Kurtis) for finding the lump,” Wideman said. “I was lucky enough that I went to the doctor's and they took it seriously and found it, because otherwise there were no symptoms at all.”

He went through eight months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the Northeast Cancer Centre, and is now in remission. “It was just tough emotionally because you don't know what the future is,” Wideman said.

On Sept. 22, Wideman, accompanied by his wife, Andrea Jenney, and sons Kurtis, now 5, and Russell, 16 months, took part in Sudbury's Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada Light The Night Walk.

The event, which involves participants walking on the Bell Park boardwalk with illuminated lanterns at dusk, raises funds for patient support services, advocacy and lifesaving research across Canada.

“This is my third year on the walk,” Wideman said. “Kurtis and I did it alone together the first time, and then we did it as a family last year. It's been great — very positive.”

Organizer Traci Franklin, who started the Sudbury walk in 2014, said the event raised more than $12,000 in its first three years. “This year, I just checked our total, and we're up to $4,500,” she said.

With about 60 walkers this year, Franklin calls the event “small but mighty.”

It's also a symbolic and emotional event for those whose lives have been touched by blood cancer. 

Survivors and patients carry white lanterns, supporters carry red lanterns and the loved ones of those who have died from blood cancer carry gold lanterns.

“The walk is done at night,” Franklin said. “It's to support people who are going through cancer. It can seem dark at times. We walk with lanterns to light up their path so that it provides some hope and support.”

Franklin founded the Sudbury walk through the influence of her brother, Ted Moroz, the president of The Beer Store in Ontario.

Moroz, a Sudbury native, said The Beer Store and the United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada have been raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada for 14 years.

Recently elected chair of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, Moroz said he's very proud of the work his sister Traci does in Sudbury for the organization. “My sister is such an amazing person,” he said.

One of the people carrying a white lantern at the walk was Shelley Brown, who has a type of blood cancer called myelofibrosis.

She was diagnosed in 2013, and controls the disease through blood transfusions. In December, she's going to undergo a stem cell transplant in an attempt to cure her cancer.

“They say my chances of survival are 58 per cent,” Brown said. “I'm going in healthy, where other people go in and they've already started to get quite ill. They have a harder time.

“One of the things I'll have to go through is Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) — my body fighting the donor cells they give me.”

Given what's she's been going through, Brown said she's appreciative so many people turned up at the walk.

“It's great to be able to come out and have the support we have here,” she said.


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