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‘Broadway in the Boro’ to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Event set for Saturday at Statesboro High

‘Broadway in the Boro’ to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

‘Broadway in the Boro’ to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Ashlyn Lanier, from left, Darien Adam...


The fourth annual “Broadway in the Boro” student variety show, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, will be held on Saturday in the Statesboro High School auditorium.
This year’s event, a dessert theater, begins with dessert being served at 6:30 p.m. and the show starting at 7 p.m. Along with SHS students, several leukemia and lymphoma survivors will also be featured. 
How this partnership came about and the role the LLS has played in helping many in the community is a story of caring people joining together to promote a worthy cause.
In October 1997, 4-year-old Blair Downs felt confused and anxious when a friend of her mother’s suddenly appeared at the doctor’s office to take her and her two older brothers home with her. The entire family had gone hurriedly when an urgent call from the doctor asked her mother, Judi, to return to her office again that day. The doctor was alarmed. Blood tests run that morning in response to Judi Downs’ persistent side ache indicated the possibility of leukemia.
“I could hardly believe, much less understand, what they were telling me,” Downs said, “so I spared the children the details. I was to go immediately to Candler Hospital in Savannah where an oncologist would be waiting for me. On my arrival, I was quickly given several tests and soon diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). I started treatments the next day. “
Her children still vividly remember the weeks that followed -- being shuffled around a lot, erratic mealtimes, and lots of family and friends staying with them as time went on.
“It was a difficult time for all of us,” Downs said.
But there was help. She learned about clinical trials to treat her kind of leukemia – many partially funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society -- and was admitted into a series of trials at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Although not a cure, the new drugs that resulted from these trials were so successful in controlling the leukemia in her and in hundreds of others, the FDA fast-tracked them for immediate use.
“I am alive today, 14 years later,” Downs said, “because the LLS helped to fund extensive research to treat, and hopefully one day to cure, CML as well as other blood cancers.”
A grateful Blair witnessed her mother’s gradual, yet remarkable, return to a near-normal life with the help provided by the LLS. While a student at Statesboro High, Blair became a catalyst for the first “Broadway in the Boro.”
“When my Statesboro High drama teacher, Eddie  Frazier, wanted to have a student variety show at the school, I immediately thought of using it as a benefit for LLS,” Blair said. “Mr. Frazier became excited over the prospect of enlisting his students for such a needy cause.”     
Other people whose lives had been touched by blood cancer illnesses rallied to the cause. Some had lost loved ones to the disease, some were actual survivors, some were simply amazingly caring people who felt led to join in.
Charles Farley is a leukemia survivor who will be featured in Saturday night’s show.  After serving for 23 years in the United States Army, he had retired, moved to Statesboro, and became a teacher.
“This second career was very rewarding and challenging,” he said, “but due to my health issues I had to retire once again.”
His symptoms included extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, excessive weight loss, fever, aches and pains, but finding the reason for them was difficult. He was finally diagnosed, through a bone marrow biopsy, with a rare type of leukemia, Large Granular Lymphocytic, that causes the patient’s immune system to be very fragile. 
“My treatment at this time consists of a combination of different medications which have helped, but I still experience a lack of energy and some degree of pain,” Farley said. “My prognosis is fairly good as long as I don’t contract an infection. My physician continues to warn me about staying as germ free as I possibly can.”
But don’t make the mistake of calling Farley a “leukemia victim.” In spite of his serious problems, he looks robustly healthy.  And his motto is, “I have leukemia, but leukemia does not have me!”
“The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has helped me by providing free information and support services not only for me, but for my family as well,” he said. “I can tell you this agency is dedicated to improving the lives of all patients and works tirelessly raising funds for blood cancer research.”
Tickets for “Broadway in the Boro,” which include dessert, are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased by calling Pittman Park United Methodist Church at (912) 681-3213, or Statesboro High School at (912) 212-8860 and asking for one of the “Broadway” co-directors, Frazier or Lisa Muldrew.

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