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Columnist strides to find a cure for leukemia

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It's not easy to rise before the sun every morning and begin a rigorous training routine, but for Donna Wentz, it is her pleasure.

The Snoqualmie woman, along with 360 people from the Seattle

area, will be taking part in the 26-mile Maui Marathon next March for the

Leukemia Society of America. And though the victory will be mainly hers

when she crosses the finish line, she will be sharing the glory with her

38-year-old honor patient Don, (who asked that his last name not be used) who is

undergoing treatment for the deadly disease.

"I want to be healthy enough to run the last mile with my wife (Maria)

and be there to meet everyone as they cross the finish line, or should we say,

the `Beginning Line,'" Don said. "Their finish could mean a new beginning

or a new life for thousands of leukemia patients and their families across

the United States and around the world."

The participants in the Maui Marathon are expected to donate more

than $1 million for leukemia research and patient services, which is

something that Wentz is proud to do.

"My mom and dad have always been good about helping

neighbors, and they passed it on to their

kids," Wentz, the Valley Record's community columnist, said.

In the next several weeks, Wentz and her team will have the

opportunity to meet Don for the first of hopefully many encounters to come.

"I'm nervous about meeting him. I don't know what I'd say," she

said. "I've been thinking about it. Maybe I can think of ways to help him and

his wife and kids."

Don was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in late

July. The disease first started to show itself as pains in his chest, which

Don thought stemmed from everyday stresses such as work, family life

and not getting enough rest. But after several days of persistent pain, his

wife convinced him to seek professional advice. Within the next week,

after going through an array of tests, Don was diagnosed with leukemia.

"My first reactions were of shock. I never thought that I would get

cancer," he recalled. "We have no family history of cancer and we try to do

everything recommended to reduce cancer — we don't smoke, we eat a

well balanced diet, exercise, etc."

Now, several months into the disease, Don will begin a more

aggressive chemotherapy drug and he has already been through several

blood transfusions in an attempt to improve his blood count. And his family is

still searching for a bone marrow donor, which is the only curative treatment.

While Don is dealing with the every day struggles of cancer, Wentz

is steadily preparing herself for the longest walk of her life.

The Leukemia Society of America coordinates a Team in Training

(TNT) program to offer the participants individualized and professional

coaching, fitness and nutrition clinics and camaraderie to prepare them for the

marathon.

This month, the group's goal is to consistently complete four miles

at each workout, but that number will triple in November, and by

December Wentz and the others should be able to walk up to 18 miles.

Sandy Knight, the campaign coordinator for TNT and a

Maui marathoner, said that her honor patient helps motivate her to go the distance.

"It's difficult to get up every morning and train for 40 to 50 miles a

week. You need to give yourself reasons to get up," she said. "A lot of the

time you're wearing a hospital bracelet and your struggle to train is symbolic

of what you see your honor patient struggling through and what they

continue to struggle through."

In turn, the honor patients feel blessed in knowing that there

are people willing to take their cause to the streets and fight leukemia in

their name.

"I am overwhelmed by the unselfish sacrifices by Donna Wentz and

others who will spend hundreds of hours training and raising over $3,500

for Leukemia research, education and patient aid," Don said.

"It's a challenge to do this marathon," Wentz said. "And it just

bothers me to see all the kids who have leukemia."

If you are interested in donating money to

the Leukemia Society of America, contact Donna Wentz at

(425) 888-0939. To find out more information about other

races the society will be participating in, call toll-free

1-888-345-4572 or email tntlsa@wolfenet.com.

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