Stacie Bliss will start nursing school in the spring, something that seemed improbable 18 years ago when doctors at Women & Children's Hospital sent her home for the holidays fearing it might be her last Christmas.
Instead, doctors confirmed come the January afterward that her acute lymphoblastic leukemia was in the early stages, and knocked out her cancer in one round of chemotherapy.
"I'm extremely lucky," said Bliss, of Arcade, who turned 21 this week.
She and her mother, Patty, will be among ambassadors for the 19th annual Light the Night Walk Sept. 22 to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Western & Central New York Chapter.
The walk – which will start at 7:30 p.m. at Delaware Park – will celebrate and commemorate people whose lives have been touched by leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, myeloma and other types of blood cancer.
Participants will carry illuminated lanterns: white for survivors, red for supporters and gold in memory of a life lost. Those who walk are asked to raise $100 or more to become a “Champion for Cures,” and will receive T-shirt, illuminated lantern and a wristband for food and a post-event reception.
Register individually or as part of a team at lightthenight.org or by calling 834-2578.
Bliss has six siblings. They, their mother, their father, Steven, and their large extended family have all donated or participated in Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fundraisers that include the walk, the Diamond Ball and the Gelatin Splash. The also held their own walk in Arcade when Bliss was a little girl.
"When we started doing the Light the Night Walk, it was pretty much with everyone from Arcade," she said. "We're from a really small town. The Blisses probably make up half the population. We would rent four or five school buses and we all had our T-shirts. When we did it in Arcade, it was just about everyone there. We did a walk around the town at night."
She credits Dr. Martin Brecher – who originally treated her and helped follow her progress until she was 18 – and two Women & Children's nurses for the inspiration to purse nursing.
Q. What do you remember about your first walk in 2000?
I was on Prednisone during that first walk and eating everything in the world. My first memory is that Krispy Kreme was a sponsor and we got to have all the doughnuts we wanted that night.
Q. When you have conversations with other survivors, especially at special events, what do some of them tell you that sticks with you?
Although I went through the same things, they went through it so much more intensely. It's amazing to me how they can open up and talk about it and be so absolutely grateful ... because it's brought them so many places in life. Had I not been sick when I was younger, there's so many people I wouldn't have met, so many places I wouldn't have gone. The health care system I had when I was young – the amazing nature of all the nurses and doctors – I couldn't shake that.
Q. What do you look forward to the most at the upcoming Light the Night?
Mostly, I enjoy meeting everyone there. It doesn't matter if you are there as a supporter or a survivor, or in memory of someone. Everyone is there for a reason, and believes in the effort so strongly. They want to get rid of blood cancers and eventually cancers in general. I look forward to the energy that it brings, and all the support.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon