Eighteen-year-old Krista Romero of Ventura had planned to start college in San Diego, but that was before she suffered a relapse of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. Likewise, the very same disease has changed the life of 11-year-old Sean Davies of Thousand Oaks, who is currently undergoing treatment.
To help Krista, Sean and their respective loved ones focus on family this holiday season, the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, through the society’s Team in Training program, has adopted both families via a holiday campaign called “Operation: Smiles of Hope,” created by the society’s Ventura County Marathon Team.
“Since 1988, Team In Training has become the largest endurance sport-training program in the country and has raised over $660 million dollars to help fight leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma,” according to Amber McCarty, a campaign manager for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society.
A 21-year-old anonymous male bone marrow donor has been found for Krista, who will undergo a bone marrow transplant on Jan. 1 at City of Hope Hospital — after which she will be in isolation at the City of Hope Village for 100 days.
Sean, who is in the third phase of his chemotherapy treatment, is progressing well, McCarty said. Sean’s father, David, a recent volunteer for Team in Training, was planning to run a triathlon to honor his son, but had to leave his team due to Sean’s illness. David plans to return to the team in Sean’s honor after his son’s recovery.
The goal of Operation: Smiles of Hope is to help relieve the stresses experienced by families with members undergoing treatment for leukemia and lymphoma, and to keep them “brilliantly distracted” from their daily struggles, McCarty said. “When I think about the struggle and the patience these people have, it’s just incredible,” McCarty said. “Families have to act as advocates for patients and that’s an emotional struggle they have to undertake while balancing life.”
Donations received will be used to offset the high costs of illness — including treatments, co-pays, hospital parking fees, prescriptions and anything else that insurance does not cover, McCarty said. “Our idea is to help inspire people to give to their community,” McCarty said. “We have time, but we have to decide how much time we’re willing to relinquish to make other people happy.”
In addition to offsetting family costs, donations will be used to provide toys and activities to the pediatric units of City of Hope and Mattel Children’s hospitals. The Romero family has compiled a wish list of items that would help defray their costs and ease demands during Krista’s treatment. For more information or to make donations, contact McCarty at 201-7150.