Tag Archives: Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Howard Beach event raises more than $100K for cancer research, services

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

All those who knew Loren Licausi describe her as strong, independent and caring.

One of her best friends, Lauren Lafemina, said her character left a noticeable mark on people.

Licausi passed away in February from acute myeloid leukemia — a form of cancer that starts with bone marrow — which she was diagnosed with only months earlier. She was 19.

“Love for Lauren,” the team formed in her honor, was one of many to participate at this year’s Howard Beach Relay for Life at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park.

Cancer survivors along with family and friends of people who have lost their bouts with the disease created special messages of tribute on white paper bags.

The Saturday, June 8 event raised more than $100,000 for cancer research and services. The Howard Beach Relay for Life has raised roughly $750,000 since it started five years ago, according to co-organizer Phillys Inserillo.

Licausi’s memorial team included her family and friends from both the neighborhood and Mount St. Mary College, where she was a freshman.

“We just wanted to do something in her memory,” said Lafemina, who also worked with her. “We all became friends through this.”

Family friend Angela San Phillipo helped organize a fundraiser for Licausi at St. Helen’s Church earlier this year. It raised more than $20,000. San Phillipo said Licausi had been looking forward to seeing videos and photos from the event.

“She was really a very special kid,” she added.

Another team, “Sebastian’s Friends Forever,” was formed in honor of eight-year-old Sebastian Oseff. He recently lost his own battle with cancer. The team raised more than $2,000 for Relay for Life, according to the event’s website, surpassing its original aim of $1,000.

Inserillo, who coordinates the walk with Melissa Fochetta, said part of the goal has always been to bring the community together for a single cause. She added that this year that was particularly important since the area is still recovering from Sandy.

“We wanted to do the event for the cancer survivors,” Inserillo said. “But we also wanted to have an event where the community could come together and celebrate their resilience.”



Sister’s bone marrow saves sibling, now they raise hope for a cure

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

Ringlet curls, bright smiles and a love of the stage bond sisters Caroline and Lisette Watters.

So do the pinhole-sized scars on Lisette’s back.

At age four, Lisette donated a life-saving portion of her bone marrow to her sister, Caroline, who at just two years old, was diagnosed with cancer.

Now 10 years in remission, Caroline, 12, and Lisette, 14, from South Ozone Park, are closer than ever, raising awareness about blood cancer and participating in events for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, including the upcoming September 22 Light the Night Walk in Forest Park. While Caroline’s cancer has subsided, memories of the seven months lived in hospitals and hoping for good news remain.

In February of 2001, once-active Caroline was diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), a blood platelet disorder, after growing lethargic and developing purple splotches all over her skin. The girls’ mother, Susan, joined an online support group for parents of children with ITP. Comparing stories with other parents, Susan became convinced her daughter had a completely different disease. She found a new doctor, who conducted a second round of tests.

In December of 2001, shortly after Caroline’s second birthday, they received her diagnosis — Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

“It was obviously the most devastating thing, said Susan. “But it’s the sort of thing you have no choice but to move forward and be strong.”

Caroline underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy, but doctors agreed her only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant, best retrieved from an immediate family member.

Doctors estimated Lisette would be a 25 percent match to her sister. Tests showed, due to their closeness in age, they were a more than perfect match.

Susan said Lisette was not forced into the procedure. Instead, she was proud. As a needle dipped into Lisette’s hip bone 150 times, extracting donor marrow, Susan said she remained brave, ecstatic to help her sister.

“I remember the day I gave her the transplant,” said Lisette. “I was really excited to give her my bone marrow.”

Shortly after the proceedure, doctors cleared Caroline to return home.

Fundraisers and awareness events for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society have become standard to the entire family. The girls speak on behalf of the non-profit, educating others about the importance of bone marrow donation and putting ever-necessary faces to a cause. Susan runs a Light the Night team, organizing fundraising marathons and triathlons. Last year, Caroline was named “Girl of the Year” by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for raising the most amount of money.

While Caroline’s memories of her cancer have faded, she remains forever grateful to her older sister.

“She’s my sister and I love her,” said Caroline. “I’ll never forget it. She saved my life.”

The two, she says, are best friends.