When cancer preys upon you personally, you are instantly transformed. You fear, you despair and you ultimately learn to soldier on and cope with treatment regimes, ups and downs, hopes and disappointments. Some experience the victory of remission and even cures, others do not. Each battle is unique, but the transformational power of cancer is universal.
My focus is not in the ravages of cancer, but in how it inspires people to act. When you visit the waiting rooms of Seattle Children’s or Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, you find courage, graciousness and hope amid life-and-death struggles. You see how those affected by loss choose to rise from grief to fight for cures. They have been transformed, and they transform others.
My friends, Carin and Jeff Towne, lost their son, Ben, at age 3 to neuroblastoma. Ben’s death crushed faith, love and hope. But rather than succumb to despair, Carin and Jeff formed the Ben Towne Foundation, and were part of an influential team that helped Seattle Children’s leaders recruit Dr. Mike Jensen. Their foundation ultimately raised more than $10 million to support Dr. Jensen’s cutting-edge T-cell immunotherapy research and treatment. Their generosity and Ben’s legacy live on through Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research.
Little Ben Towne was a dear friend of our grandchild, Callie Lentz. Callie witnessed her friend’s decline during his struggle with the disease. And after Ben died, Callie suggested to her parents that they form a coffee company to support the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. The idea took off and Callie’s Coffee became an “impact” corporation that now is an important contributor to the cause.
From the beginning, my wife, Katie, and I were enthusiastic supporters of the Townes’ mission. Katie was such an ardent ally that even as she battled cancer herself, she insisted on attending her last Ben Towne benefit only one day after undergoing surgery for adenocarcinoma of the small intestine. Before she died, Katie asked that donations in her name support the foundation. Dear friends answered Katie’s wish by generously matching contributions in her memory. This effort raised more than $200,000 to accelerate Dr. Jensen’s research. We hope this example motivates other families to honor loved ones in a similarly powerful way.
Cancer is awful. There is no other word for it. But its ravages transform lives by releasing innate perseverance, courage and philanthropy. Carin and Jeff’s efforts, Callie’s Coffee sales and the many gifts honoring Katie drive cures and save lives. Together we can and will transform cancer into a self-defeating force.
I Am Seattle Children’s: The People Behind the Care
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