Local doctor steps up for leukemia research

IMG_6516A Blaine family doctor is doing her part to fund the fight against blood cancers.

Dr. Marta Kazymyra, from Bay Medical Clinic, will participate in the Big Climb on Sunday, March 20, a charity event that raises money for leukemia research.

The Big Climb, now in its 30th year, is a hike up the Columbia Tower, the tallest building in the Pacific Northwest. The downtown Seattle building is the second-highest tower west of the Mississippi, and stands 69 stories tall, with more than 1,300 steps from the lobby to the roof.

The event raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), which funds research for blood cancers and provides education and resources for patients. Last year, the event brought in $2.9 million. Teams raise money through sponsorships and personal pledges, like a walkathon but much more vertical. Kazymyra will be climbing with her team, Larissa’s Crew.

“This will be my fourth climb, and believe me, it doesn’t get any easier with age,” Kazymyra said. “In fact, it’s torture. However, it pales in comparison to what cancer patients go through.”

Kazymyra first got involved with the charity after her friend Larissa Dhanani was diagnosed with leukemia five years ago. Dhanani spent more than 100 days at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at the University of Washington, undergoing intense chemotherapy treatments. Thanks in part to stem cells donated by her brother and an indomitable will to live, Dhanani is now a five-year cancer survivor.

Over the last four years, Larissa’s Crew has raised more than $100,000 for leukemia research, and is in the top 10 among this year’s largest fundraisers. This year, Kazymyra’s 9-year-old grandson, A.J. Telles, will be participating for the first time. Kazymyra said A.J. has already raised $475, more than half of his personal goal. The team has set their target at $50,000.

Leukemia research has come a long way over the decades, thanks in part to volunteer organizations like LLS. According to Kazymyra, the survival rate for a child with leukemia in the 1960s was about 3 percent; today, it’s more than 90 percent.

While the treatments have been encouraging, blood cancers are still prevalent; someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every three minutes in the U.S., and the disease affects people of all ages.

Anyone interested in donating to Kazymyra’s Big Climb goal can bring a check to Bay Medical Clinic at 377 C Street in Blaine, or visit bigclimb.org and look for the team Larissa’s Crew.

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