By Jennifer “Realm” Kim, Staff Writer
Friends and family gathered to support Stephenie “Remedi” Lai, a University of Georgia alumna and former national director of events, in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA on Saturday, Oct. 10.
When Stephanie “Remedi” Lai was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin’s Disease, she had just turned 26.
“The beginning was scary, but everyone is so involved in the beginning. After a while, people get back their normal lives and they don’t check in as much,” Lai said on being diagnosed.
At the time, she was in her final semester of graduate school at the University of Georgia. Her diagnosis led to a month of missed classes, rescheduled finals, and the start to her chemo therapy only five days after her graduation.
“Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a blood cancer that begins in the white blood cells,” she said. “As the cancer progresses, your lymph nodes become tumors.”
Since lymph nodes are all over the body for fighting protection, the weakened lymph nodes become unable to fight against colds and infections. Lai’s diagnosis of Stage 3 cancer means that the cancerous lymph nodes were found above and below her diaphragm.
Although she was affected by the cancer, she did not put her life on hold. She was advised to stop her job search until the end of her treatment but she “couldn’t just stay at home and do nothing.”
Lai discovered the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) when it held a blood cancer conference in Atlanta. This free event taught her about blood cancers, nutrition and survivorship issues. She then became a volunteer in the office for three days a week.
The Light the Night Walk was the most fundraising that Lai has ever done in her life. Her team raised over $2000, which exceeded her initial goal of $1200.
Thinking back on the race, she said, “I was really tired after the walk. I can barely walk up the stairs without getting out of breath anymore because I’m so weak and tired. But it was great having so many people come out to support me and get me past the finish line.”
Lai suggests that sisters all over the nation should look up their closest Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since it is an international organization, there are Light the Night walks all over the world. Stephenie hopes to join the LLS Team in Training, which is an active fundraising arm for athletes, once she is cleared for running races again.
Lai finished her last chemo therapy session on Oct. 15.
“Chemo takes a toll on you physically, but also emotionally,” Lai said about the therapy. “There were a lot of dark days during the middle. I was just in so much constant pain nausea, and just not feeling.”
But now, she said she is happy to be done with it. She has an upcoming PET scan and is anxious in hopes for good news. Instead of planning for something grand at the end of her treatment, Lai said that she’s “just ready to get back to a normal life and be able to go to work, walk up the stairs without losing breath…little things like that.”
Lai ended the interview by thanking sisters nationwide.
“The outpouring of love and support I’ve received from sisters nationwide has been overwhelming,” Lai said. “Thank you to everyone who has sent me messages, bought a shirt, donated to my fundraising campaign and etc.. It really shows that when you’re down, your sisters, near and far, will be there to hold you up. It’s amazing. Thank you so much!”