Reflections on Legacy for Life reunion

Former bone marrow transplant patients, family members, doctors, nurses and a few donors gathered for the weekend celebration of life five or more years post-tranplant
Legacy for Life participants
Legacy for Life participants attended workshops on campus and then gathered for a group photo in front of the Vessel sculpture. More photos from the event will be available online soon. Photo by Dean Forbes

The elusive Seattle summer sunshine made a timely appearance for the Hutchinson Center’s fifth transplant patient reunion on July 22-23. Named “Legacy for Life” and held in partnership with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the event drew about 300 former bone marrow and stem cell transplant patients—plus hundreds of family members and some cell donors—who came from around the U.S. and a few countries overseas. It was a time for old friends to reunite with each other and staff and for patients whose transplants were more recent to experience their first reunion. Patients who were at least five years post-transplant were invited.

Friday kick-off festivities

A late afternoon reception in the Listwin/Mundie Courtyard on Friday kicked off the reunion festivities. KOMO-TV news anchor Denise Whitaker was master of ceremonies. Center President and Director Dr. Larry Corey welcomed the assembled guests, and Dr. Paul Martin, Clinical Research Division and director of the Long-Term Follow-Up Program, honored colleague Dr. Jean Sanders for her many years of leading the pediatric transplant program. Sanders is handing the reins to Dr. Scott Baker but will remain active with research and patient care. 

Every patient has a compelling story to tell about the lifesaving gift of a marrow or stem cell transplant and the special care they received. Many of them shared stories and photos on a special Legacy for Life online guestbook.

Here’s a smattering of reunion sightings:

  • Dr. Sumie Tabata came from Japan to attend the reunion. She was transplanted at age 8 after being diagnosed with leukemia in 1981. Today Tabata is a hematologist at Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, where she treats patients with blood disorders and performs transplants.
  • Chris Lundy and family members traveled from San Diego. He received his transplant in 1971 and today is the person who has lived the longest post-transplant among the Center's patients. The Seattle Times interviewed him for its story about the reunion.
  • Kent resident and patient Kent Klingman and his donor from Germany, Mathias Junge, who have become close friends, were inseparable at the reunion. Klingman hosts an annual golf tournament called the Klingman Open to benefit the transplant program’s Family Assistance Fund, and Junge is a regular at that event. 
  • Former patient and Center employee Michael Rubin and his daughter Mallory also were interviewed and prominently featured in The Seattle Times.

Saturday workshops, group photo, dinner tributes

On Saturday, reunion participants attended workshops on campus and then gathered for a group photo in front of the Vessel sculpture. From there they were shuttled to the downtown Sheraton Seattle Hotel for a dinner celebration to wrap up the festivities. It was an inspirational evening in the Grand Ballroom. Former patient Elizabeth Flexer introduced a tribute to special guests Dr. Don Thomas and wife, Dottie Thomas, former patient and professor Dr. Lou Anne Barclay (who traveled from Jamaica to attend the reunion) introduced a video greeting from a former patient and famous tenor Jose Carreras, and former patient and Center employee Todd Coburn presented a slide show of reunion images.

Presentations by Clinical Research Division Director Dr. Fred Appelbaum and Dr. Karen Syrjala, co-director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Survivorship Program, recapped clinical progress in stem cell transplantation as well as the latest research on the psychological and physiological impacts of such treatment.

“I thought the reunion was just wonderful,” said former transplant patient Bev Dahlin of Seattle. She was transplanted in 1998 and this was her second reunion. “The program was very informative and the entire experience was uplifting because we all had a chance to interact with each other and with our caregivers.”

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