Commentary: Join me in the fight against blood cancers

I see cancer every day.

Since 2002, I have dedicated my career to helping those battling cancer through nursing. During these years, I have worked as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner and, most recently, as a clinical nurse specialist, working in oncology since Day One.

I have been at Hoag Hospital since 2003, serving the Acute Care Medical Oncology unit where I see blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma on a daily basis. It is where I see the truth of statistics every day.

Did you know that every four minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer? And annually, an estimated 53,100 people in the United States lose their battle with blood cancer, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

I am committed to making a difference in the lives of people with cancer and their loved ones. And that commitment recently led to a surprising, but welcome, honor: a nomination as "Woman of the Year" for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Orange County/Inland Empire chapter.

I accept this nomination in honor of the patients and families at Hoag Hospital.

Each year, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society select men and women in the local community to be honored. These volunteers are usually advocates, businesspeople or community members dedicated to the quest to end blood cancers. I, and other nominees, will raise funds for 10 weeks in a blind fundraising competition, where each dollar raised counts as "one vote."

Our efforts culminate with a gala in Newport Beach on May 18, where the announcement of the 2012 Man & Woman of the Year will be made. This unique program fundraised more than $14.6 million on a national level in 2011.

The improvements in research and care have led to significant advances for some blood cancers. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has supported research that has led to these advances and some of these treatments are being studied for other cancers like breast, prostate, ovarian, lung and kidney and even noncancer diagnoses. These advances include Gleevec, used for chronic myelogenous leukemia, Velcade for multiple myeloma, and Rituxan used primarily for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

It is an honor and a privilege to be there for people affected by cancer. I have seen some amazing success stories and improvements in survival and care. However, I still see struggles and loss. We have come very far with advances in treatment and supportive care, but for many cancers, we have to find better treatments.

I'm dedicated to this cause as funds raised from this campaign go toward research and keeping LLS support services I use daily around. My goal is to raise $50,000 to link our efforts to an LLS-funded researcher, and I will dedicate it to the patients and families at Hoag.

My patients are true fighters and people I consider heroes — some are living day to day in hope for a cure. I keep them and their families in my heart as I work on this mission.

I am continuing to gather donations from colleagues, family and friends. I am also seeking business donations and sponsorships.

You can help. Act this week.

Tax-deductible donations, sponsorships and Grand Finale tickets can be made online at by May 16.

For questions on how to help, please contact Aimee with LLS at (714) 481-5609 or

JESSICA KOZUKI is a clinical nurse specialist at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

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