Warren News

Published on June 21st, 2017

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Inaugural Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 5K Run/Walk

Event to feature Be The Match on-site testing to find donor-patient bone marrow “matches”

Dr. Eugene Decker, the medical director for St. Luke’s Warren Hospital Family Residency program, is passionate about many things, perhaps none more than running. “I’m a member of the streakers club, with clothes on,” he jokes, referring to a string of 30 consecutive years having run every day of the year.

So it is with special pride that he, wife Debbie and his family have established the inaugural LLS (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) Team Decker 5K Run/Walk and 1-mile children’s walk featuring Be The Match that will take place 9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 24 at Notre Dame High School of Green Pond, 3417 Church Road, Easton. Be The Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation, specializes in on-site testing to find donor-patient “matches.”

“ ‘Someday is today’ is the motto of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” Dr. Decker explains. “They’re looking for a cure for blood cancers and we’re hoping to find donor-patient matches through on-site testing we have set up with Be The Match.”

Alyssa Hillpot, one of Dr. Decker’s family medicine patients, battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is a two-time receiver of stem cells through a donor found by Be The Match. Alyssa’s donor was a German medical school student who twice donated stem cells.

During her last relapse in 2015, Alyssa contracted pneumonia and was placed on a ventilator while being placed in a medically induced coma. She lost nearly all muscle movement from being bedridden from pneumonia, coma and rehabilitation following the second stem cell transplant and needed to learn to walk again. Alyssa has been cancer-free for almost two years. She goes to the gym three times a week, takes part in Crossfit once a week, and is training to complete the LLS Team Decker 5K run and walk on June 24.

“Alyssa’s story is amazing,” says Dr. Decker. “Be The Match is coming here for the race to help identify donors, and it’s a very simple, painless process now. They just use a Q-tip and swab your cheek, and the results go to their international registry.”

Alyssa will be one of the honorary starters for the race at Notre Dame – Green Pond, where Dr. Decker serves as an assistant cross-country coach. The other honorary starters will be Terri and Craig Gillow, the parents of the late Kimmy Gillow, who lost her battle with leukemia when she was a freshman at Notre Dame in 2009.

The start and end of the race will take place adjacent to the Kimmy Gillow Memorial Garden at the school. Kimmy’s favorite color was orange, which happens to be the same color as Dr. Decker’s running shoes.

“I’m a doctor, and this effort is aimed at benefitting cancer patients, maybe even my patients like Alyssa,” Dr. Decker said. “This race is personal to me for a lot of reasons, and it becomes more and more personal when people say they want to run.”

Dr. Decker hopes the race and Be The Match event draws more than 100 runners to raise money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society while also helping to identify potential bone marrow and stem cell donors.

Visit Pretzel City Sports to register for the race.

The race is serving as a larger LLS fundraiser for Team Decker, which includes sons Dylan and Eric, and daughter-in-law Stephanie, to compete in the Disneyworld Half Marathon in January. Team Decker had prepared to compete in the event last January, but the race was cancelled due to lightning. The Team in Training website for donations to support Team Decker in the Disney race can be found here.


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