Erin Zammett Ruddy - Author. Writer. Blogger. Survivor.
  • Kicking off Baseball Season and Curing Blood Cancers–What a Night!

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    April 2nd, 2013
    With Mr. Met!

    With Mr. Met!

     

    Monday night I was given the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Relentless for a Cure” Award at the Mets Welcome Home Dinner. It’s a gala/fundraiser the organization has every year on opening day. Half of the proceeds go to LLS and half to Katz Women’s Hospital out here on Long Island. I was being honored for my work with LLS over the past 10 years and it couldn’t have been more perfect considering what big Mets fans we all are. I still remember the thrill of being able to stay up way past our bedtime (and seeing the Mets win, of course) during the ’86 World Series. I also remember my dad’s friend Bob, a die-hard Red Sox fan, nearly having a stroke in our living room when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs.

     

     

    With Doc Gooden, one of our all-time faves (that's my sister's best friend, Sherry, on the left--the biggest Mets fan I know).

    With Doc Gooden, one of our all-time faves (that’s my sister’s best friend, Sherry, on the left–the biggest Mets fan I know).

    The event was amazing, full of Mets old (we met Mookie Wilson, John Franco, Dwight Goodin and Ron Darling) and new. The 2013 Mets sat up on a dais and our table was directly in front of David Wright. I’m pretty sure Melissa stared at him the whole night. He was so nice and adorable and all the guys seemed really happy to be there. Melissa got up on stage to introduce me and she was nervous (she said so in her speech several times) but she did great. She said lots of nice things about me too—mentioning my Glamour column, my book, my work as a patient advocate and, of course, the big Woman of the Year win last year that so many of you helped me earn. When I got up, I thanked Melissa and then explained to everyone just how big a fan she is—her son Gregory’s middle name is Shea and, as I told Ron Darling who was right next to me, her childhood bedroom was full of his posters. Then I got into the real stuff. Here’s my speech:

    11 years ago, when I was 23, I was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. Without effective treatment I would have had as little as five years to live. But just before I was diagnosed the FDA approved a targeted drug therapy—a little pill that was putting people’s CML into remission without making them sick. It was being called a miracle drug and, for me, it was exactly that. Within a year of starting treatment, my leukemia was in remission. Unfortunately, just a year after my diagnosis, my sister, Melissa, who you just heard from, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was 27 and seven months pregnant at the time. There was no miracle drug for Melissa so she endured months of chemotherapy and radiation and then, a year later, she relapsed and had to go through it all over again, this time leaving her then 10-month-old son for a month so she could move into Sloan Kettering for a stem-cell transplant.

    Our family has been through a lot, but we have so much to be grateful for. Today, thanks to groundbreaking and life-saving treatments, Melissa and I are both doing incredibly well. We are healthy, happy and we have five beautiful children between us children we never thought possible when we first heard the words “you have cancer.” (The baby Melissa was pregnant with when she was diagnosed, who got chemo before he was born, is now a whip-smart 4th-grader and star of his baseball team—he wants to play for the METS, naturally).

    And despite what we’ve been through, we feel incredibly lucky. We are incredibly lucky. We are not only surviving, we are thriving. And that’s why I’ll never stop raising awareness and funds and giving back to LLS, the organization that has given us so much. LLS funds research for groundbreaking cancer drugs but it also takes care of patients and their families with incredible support services. Melissa and I have benefitted tremendously from LLS’s work and we want to say thank you. And, more importantly, we want to help others. We need to keep fighting for a cure and for new and better treatment options because we all know that not everyone is as lucky as my family has been. But I also know that it’s possible…

    Gleevec, the drug I still take every day that keeps my cancer in remission, was approved by the FDA just six months before I was diagnosed. Before Gleevec, the survival rate for my type of leukemia was 55 %. Today, thanks to Gleevec, the survival rate is 95 %. The drug was developed with funds from LLS, funds that came from generous people like you. My sister and I are living proof that your dollars really will save lives. So on behalf of our parents and husbands, who are sitting right there, and our beloved children who are home with sitters so we could have a good time tonight, thank you. Thank you to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for this amazing award, to the entire Mets organization and to all of you for being here tonight. And let’s go mets!

    My job for the night was not just to accept the award but to share LLS’s mission and why it’s so important to keep fighting for a cure. After the speeches, we ate, mingled, bid on silent auction stuff and met the Mets. They are all so nice and were so appreciative and supportive and, um, hot. I’ve got to say it, those boys are handsome. Full disclosure: I’ve always had a thing for baseball players (just ask my college roommates). At the end of the night, Nick and I “won” a David Wright-signed bat and a Lauren Merkin bag, respectively—and by “win” I mean be paid good money, but it all went to a good cause (my cause!) and now we have an awesome sixth birthday present for Alex (the bat; the bag is mine).

    It was a great night and I’m so honored and excited about my award. And so pumped for the Mets season! We could really use a good one this year, right? I’m hopeful as always. Here are a few more pictures (and there are more good ones coming so check back later!)…

    Melissa and David Wright. LOVE this picture, love this guy.

    Melissa and David Wright. LOVE this picture, love this guy.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Such a great night for us!

    Such a great night for us!

     

    I wonder what I was saying...And, how cute is Jonathan Niese?

    I wonder what I was saying…And, how cute is Jonathan Niese?

     

    They got him to sign balls for all the kids, which was awesome. I missed all the fun because I was chatting it up with some new friends....

    They got him to sign balls for all the kids, which was awesome. I missed all the fun because I was chatting it up with some new friends….

     

     

    The whole table. Not a bad looking crew, right? What a night!

    The whole table. Not a bad looking crew, right? What a night!

    I was more nervous for this speech than I've been in a while. Probably had something to do with all those baseball players sitting behind me!

    I was more nervous for this speech than I’ve been in a while. Probably had something to do with all those baseball players sitting behind me (not in this picture–this was my practice run!)!

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