Fighting Cancer

A North Texas organization fights blood cancers by funding research and aiding patients with life-threatening diseases.

April Ingram and Dr. Edward Agura, a Texas Oncology physician who specializes in blood and marrow transplants, hematology and medical oncology. Courtesy Leukemia Texas

On Valentine’s Day 2013, Arlington resident April Ingram went to an emergency room because of a severe pain in her leg. That probably saved her life, but it marked the start of a long and complicated — and painful — journey.

The blood work showed that she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia — a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow, and the most common type of cancer in children, reports the Mayo Clinic. Treatments “result in a good chance for a cure,” the clinic reports. But the disease also occurs in adults where “the chance of a cure is greatly reduced.”

“Her blood work was so horrible that she had to begin chemotherapy right away, so on Feb. 15, 2013, she began the first of six months of treatments,” said Mandy O'Neill, the chief executive officer of Leukemia Texas.

Founded in 1970, Leukemia Texas is an independent nonprofit corporation dedicated to fighting blood cancer through funding research and financial aid to patients in Texas. It is a stand-alone organization funded primarily through annual special events. (More information here: leukemiatexas.org/)

Ingram had a bone marrow transplant in July 2013 and is doing well despite the graft-versus-host disease common in transplants where the patient’s immune system views the transplanted material as foreign and tries to reject it.

All of that would be enough for most people, but Ingram faced two other challenges almost immediately. In October 2014, she was laid off from work. And the next month, she had a heart attack, triggered by a previously unknown heart defect.

“I was unable to work for a year immediately after diagnosis,” Ingram said. “My savings had been depleted, and treatment bills were growing daily. Leukemia Texas afforded me the comfort of knowing that I would be able to pay a larger portion of my hospital bills than I could have without their help.”

An example are the UVB radiation therapy treatments she receives twice every two weeks to help ease the pain of the graft-versus-host complications. They cost $5,000 per treatment, O'Neill said.

Fighting cancer is not just about medical treatments. “I truly believe that financial relief is essential in one’s fight against cancer,” Ingram said. “I will never forget and remain forever indebted for the care and love given to me by Leukemia Texas.”

Leukemia Texas is not affiliated with any other leukemia or nonprofit organization and does not receive any government funding. Major fundraising events include The Beat Leukemia Ball and the Leukemia Texas Golf Classic.