October 16th marked a significant day in the lives of a band of philanthropic Microsoft employees and, potentially, the lives of Leukemia & Lymphoma sufferers the world over.

A diverse group of employees answered the call to help a cause that was too strong to ignore when we heard about the prevalence of blood cancers and the great work accomplished by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), specifically through their Team In Training Program. Almost everyone knows of someone who has suffered from this indiscriminate set of cancers. But, thanks to LLS, it’s not all doom and gloom. Perhaps the most impressive achievement in LLS-funded research is Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL), which is now one of the most curable forms of cancer, with a five-year relative survival rate that has more than doubled to almost 88% since 1963.  A recent limited study has shown great hope that gene therapy can help cure leukemia. We even met a very courageous lady who has overcome stomach cancer, in large part thanks to Gleevec – a drug developed primarily for Chronic Myelogenous Lymphoma.

 Remembering the cause keeps us committed to going the distance.

 We all entered the training program with personal goals, open minds and, to be honest, some skepticism that we could achieve the physical feats and fundraising requirements ahead of us. However, from the start it became obvious that we were in good hands, with a great support network of coaches, mentors and, most importantly, the TEAM.  Over the last 3 months we’ve worked diligently to put in the hard miles and raise awareness of what we are doing--all with increasing confidence that we will collectively succeed.

The “team” element has been a surprising benefit as we’ve spurred each other on in training – not always easy at Pacifica at 7.30am on a Saturday, or the hills at the Stanford Dish after a long day in the office. We’ve all had success with the training, but fundraising was even more challenging.  However, a recent on-campus team fundraiser received some very positive support and helped raise the collective coffers. Co-captains Arleen Fernando and Thea Nilsson planned a Luau for LLS that took place at SVC in September.  All FTE donations were directed toward Team Microsoft’s fundraising minimum and these donations qualified for a corporate match, taking full advantage of the company-wide giving benefit.

Bolstered by all of that support, 7 Silicon Valley Microsofties embarked on the final leg of their journey for an unforgettable weekend in San Francisco. An aptly-named “Inspiration” dinner was held on Saturday night for 3,700 Team In Training participants who had, for that one event, raised  a collective ~$13million to fight blood cancers.  As 22,000 runners flooded Union Square at 7am on race day, the nervous tension was palpable. However, this very quickly gave way to a sense of excitement and accomplishment as everyone made their way around every corner and up and down every hill – oh those hills!!!

Much great work has been done and more is still to come for remaining events this season and planning to stay involved next season.  We know that we are making a difference; we know that we are achieving something great and we are doing so while making connections that will extend way beyond the training season.