NYer Of The Week: Ali Landes Organizes Walk Against Cancer
When her family was hit with bad news, our New Yorker of the Week knew she could channel their loving energy into a positive fight against a rare disease. John Schiumo filed the following report.
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This is a story about how you can save someone’s life – through your attitude.
For the Landes family, that attitude is the reason they're here today, enjoying a walk in the park on a spring afternoon.
Three years ago, this family was devastated by the words everyone dreads to hear.
"Mom has cancer and she's going to have to start chemo," Ali Landes remembers her father telling the family. "It was one of the first times that I was just hysterical."
Complicating matters, Ali's mom Wendy was diagnosed with a rare cancer called liposarcoma, which attacks fat cells inside the abdomen and thigh.
"When you do hear about it, it can be very difficult to treat because we don't have very good medications for it and it doesn't respond much to the things we do have," says NYU Gastroenterologist Mark Pochapin.
But Wendy is a fighter.
"You have this moment where you feel like these are possibly last moments," Ali says. "To have six tumors growing at 50% after we had just watched her surgery – something just snapped in me and it was this feeling of 'This is enough, we actually have to do something.'"
That something was the Wendy Walk, a non-profit effort dedicated to raising awareness and money for liposarcoma cancer research.
Just the idea gave the family hope.
Hospital rooms became filled with plans for family walks, then tubes and gowns turned into running gear and sneakers.
"It was like someone had given me this huge gift," says Wendy. "I didn't believe that anyone could have made me feel good at that time, but this did."
"Wendy is a symbol – she's one person but she represents the world," Dr. Pochapin says. "I really believe that when you make a difference for one, you make a difference for everybody. As a physician that's true, but also for Ali, that's what she's showing."
"I'm scared – I'm scared that a cure wont be found," Wendy says. "On the other hand I feel like I'm giving a lot of people a lot of hope."
And so for turning a family's despair into a walking picture of positivity, Ali Landes is our New Yorker of the Week.