Light The Night Walk Red Deer to raise funds for blood cancer research

Light The Night Walk Red Deer to raise funds for blood cancer research

A local leukemia survivor is sharing his story to help raise funds and awareness for blood cancer research.

Red Deer’s Michael Wark will participate in the 4th annual Light The Night Walk this Saturday as an Honoured Hero.

The event takes place at Bower Ponds from 5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Wark recently completed treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a cancer said to start in the bone marrow, but often quickly moving into the blood and sometimes spreading to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, liver, spleen and central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

“I was very lucky in that it was caught early,” says the 28-year-old, who is now in full remission after being diagnosed in June 2018.

Light The Night Walk Red Deer to raise funds for blood cancer research 1Michael Wark, 28, of Red Deer, will participate in Light The Night Walk Red Deer on Sept. 14 as the Honoured Hero for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. The event runs from 5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Bower Ponds.

“At the time, my doctors told me that if it hadn’t been caught, I would have been looking at a few more months to live at that point. It was a huge shock. When I first got the news, I had only started feeling unwell a couple weeks before and just thought it was a bad cold.”

A journeyman carpenter and project manager for a home renovation company, Wark says it was his wife who convinced him to get some blood work done.

“When we got the results back, my doctors said I think we better send you in to see a specialist because your blood counts are not what they should be and my white blood cell count was virtually non-existent,” recalls Wark. “To go in and get the news within a couple of days it’s cancer, definitely turned things upside down for us in a big way. I went through seven months-worth of treatments in Calgary out of the Tom Baker Centre which involved some intensive chemotherapy and some radiation and allogenic stem cell transplants, which a genetically-matched donor was found who perfectly matched my DNA.”

On Saturday, Wark says he will be sharing his story about the treatments and support he received and how his life has been changed by the experience.

“For whoever it might be in your life who is going through something like this, having the support of their family and friends around them as they’re going through it, makes all the difference in the world,” exclaims Wark. “But in spite of being the toughest year of my life, now being in remission and hopefully getting ready to get on with my life once again, I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity for a second chance.”

With a goal of raising upwards of $15,000 during Light The Night, participants are asked to walk with illuminated lanterns in support of patients, survivors and loved ones lost to leukemia.

Donations, registrations and more information can be found at www.lightthenight.ca or during the event at Bower Ponds Saturday evening.

Wark says there are three key areas that the money raised will go towards through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC), including education and awareness, research initiatives and patient support.

“For myself and my family this last year, we were eligible for some grant funding through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which helped with out-of-town living costs and travel expenses and all of the costs associated with treatments,” he exclaims. “So a portion of the donations from that goes directly back to patients who are going through this as well.”

On Sept. 3, officials with the LLSC announced an over $4 million investment in research projects aimed at tackling the toughest challenges in blood cancer.

Each year, more than 24,000 Canadians are said to be diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. To date, LLSC has invested more than $40 million in research to better understand the underlying causes of the disease, develop better therapies and save more lives.