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Organization raises funds for rare cancer

In 2008, junior Jackie Landes’ mother, Wendy Landes, was diagnosed with liposarcoma.

Liposarcoma is a rare form of tissue cancer that results in the growth of malignant soft tissue tumors, usually in the abdominal cavity and extremities. The disease has no cure, but its symptoms are treatable.

Most people who are diagnosed with liposarcoma receive a short prognosis. The prognosis, however, depends on the degree of the tumor.

Three years, three siblings and nearly $500,000 later, Jackie and her family are still working to find a cure for her mother’s illness.

On Sunday, Jackie hosted the third annual Wendy Walk, a fundraiser for the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative that works to find a cure for liposarcoma.

The walk is held annually in Miami, Los Angeles and New York City. Jackie and her two siblings lead the three different walks. Her older sister, Ali, hosts the one in New York. Matt leads the walk in LA. Over three years, the siblings have raised more than $530,000.

“I feel like it’s the most important and fulfilling thing we have done as a family,” Ali said.

According to Jackie, her mother did not initially agree with the idea of a foundation that would make her “a celebrity for cancer patients.” However, given the rarity and lack of research for this form of cancer, Jackie convinced her mother that this was a good idea.

The Landes siblings spread awareness about Wendy Walk by using social media networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. After word began to spread, Jackie remembers receiving emails from all over the world from people diagnosed with sarcoma.

“It feels amazing to get these emails,” she said. “We started the walk so that people wouldn’t feel alone.”

According to Ali, all the funds raised by Wendy Walk have been given as grants to a team of international doctors, who primarily work in Oslo, Norway.

In Oslo, a team of researchers is investigating how to reproduce liposarcoma tumors in mice. That way, they may begin to understand how the tumor develops and how it could possibly be eradicated.

This year, more than 350 people ­– many of which were University of Miami students – attended the walk and raised about $30,000 to benefit the philanthropy.

Still, Jackie hopes the organization raises $1 million in the future.

Jackie, who is also a sister of Sigma Delta Tau, asked for support from UM’s Greek community.

“I was excited to see UM students get involved,” Jackie said. “I went around to the all the fraternities and sororities and asked for help.”

Wendy made a surprise appearance at the event.

Senior Alexandra Miller, Jackie’s sorority sister, was moved by her visit.

“Seeing her speak was touching,” Miller said. “This gives Jackie and her siblings a chance to do something and help her mom cope.”

While the road to a cure is long, Jackie has faith that the organization will help promote awareness of liposarcoma and other rare forms of cancer.

“I would love to spend 100 percent of my time making this nonprofit better,” she said. “I don’t think it will ever end.”

To make a donation or to learn more about the organization, visit the organization’s website, wendywalk.com or its Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheWendyWalk.

April 15, 2012

Reporters

Alexander Gonzalez

Assistant Editor


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