In 1985, 11-year-old Jennifer took to the stage to accept The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) "Volunteer of the Year” award for her mother, Teresa McVay, who had lost her battle against chronic myelogenous leukemia earlier that year. That was Jennifer’s first time speaking on stage, but it would not be her last. Driven by her mother’s traumatic passing, Jennifer has been a public speaker on Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs), sharing her own experience with loss in order to bring awareness to the cause. She attributes her knack for fundraising to her mother, who first showed her the power of public speaking.
Jennifer reminisces about how her mother first became involved with LLS's (The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s predecessor) following her diagnosis in ‘83. Teresa was a young, beautiful mother with a rare blood disease whose calls to action moved the public, successfully raising $100,000. Jennifer has since followed in her mother’s footsteps, securing $13,000 worth of donations in support of blood cancer survivors and research through multiple LLS events, including the LLS Team In Training triathlon and The Big Climb.
Because her mother had no perfect match in the family, Jennifer also remembers how important the bone marrow registry was for her mother’s treatments. Although technological advancements have made stem cell donations faster and easier than ever, the matching process is still long and uncertain. Jennifer has thus partnered with Be The Match to register and swab over 800 people in her area and encourages people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to join the registry today.
Jennifer recalls how the support systems her family had following the loss of her mother slowly disappeared while her grief remained, describing how important it is to “feel a hug from the world around you” that can “pull you through and give you the strength you need” to carry on. As such, she hopes that people show more empathy and patience to all those who have suffered from cancer, including those still grieving.
Written by LLS Story Volunteer, Alaina Chen