A Beacon of Hope
Bristol Myers Squibb colleagues Rosanna Ricafort and Kathleen O’Neil have found powerful healing through the company’s support of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) signature event Light The Night®.
Originally published on Bristol Myers Squibb News & Perspectives
Bristol Myers Squibb has a long-standing partnership with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and has been the top biopharma fundraising team for Light The Night® for more than a decade. Since 1949, the LLS has invested nearly $1.5 billion in cancer research, and has provided more than $431 million in co-pay financial assistance to patients. While Light The Night® is a U.S.-based event, it supports the LLS, which is a global leader in cancer research.
Bristol Myers Squibb colleagues Rosanna Ricafort and Kathleen O’Neil both took a moment to breathe when signing up to participate in this year’s Light The Night, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) signature event. It was more than just a selfless act of volunteerism. It was an important step in their healing journey.
For Rosanna, vice president, cellular therapy clinical development, selecting from a dropdown menu on the registration page was a deeply emotional moment. A pediatric oncologist-hematologist by training, Rosanna has participated in Light The Night in the past in support of her patients and their families and floated a gold lantern in their honor. This year, when registering for one of the company-supported walks in New Jersey, Rosanna selected “patient” from the dropdown menu.
Diagnosed earlier this year with a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Rosanna has a new perspective on the value of scientific innovation and clinical research in advancing outcomes for patients. And she understands the hope that these advances bring, something she always tried to deliver for her patients. Sharing her story and joining together with other patients and survivors at events like Light The Night are her efforts to embrace that hope.
“Sharing my cancer diagnosis and journey allows me to fully represent the struggle of battling this disease and helps me draw strength from a wonderful community of loved ones, colleagues and researchers,” she said. “Your strength can be built from the people around you, and that’s what participating in Light The Night does. It gives you that permission to ask for strength from others.”
Rosanna acknowledges many “full-circle” moments in her story. With 19 years in academic research and clinical practice followed by her industry experience in drug development, including the last seven years at Bristol Myers Squibb, Rosanna knows the science of blood cancer inside and out. Now as a patient, she approaches her work “with a greater sense of humility, empathy and passion.”
In another ironic twist, Rosanna is currently being treated with a Bristol Myers Squibb medicine that she had evaluated in clinical studies for several years in the treatment of blood cancer. “I am directly benefitting from the scientific research that came from our company, which is just amazing,” she said.
Advances in cancer research, and in particular what the LLS has made possible, inspired Kathleen O’Neil, senior territory business manager, Hematology, to sign up this year for the Light The Night event. She jumped in headfirst this year as a team captain for the Buffalo, New York walk, where she and members of her Bristol Myers Squibb family gathered to support not only one another, but the work of LLS.
“It was amazing to participate as someone coming not just from the professional space of hematology but also as a patient,” Kathleen said. “Decades ago, many blood cancers were a death sentence. And now, over a decade later, I’m here because of the medicines research organizations like the LLS have made possible.”
“BMS is a critical partner in our efforts to shine light on the darkness of cancer — giving every patient access to the care they need to not only survive but thrive. Their continued collaboration and support facilitate the ground-breaking research and life-saving therapies that have touched so many,” said Coker Powell, LLS chief development officer.
Bristol Myers Squibb established a goal this year to create 90 Light The Night teams with 700 participants across North America, and raise $850,000 for the LLS. The company has already surpassed each of those metrics, and the Light The Night season is still underway.
Rosanna plans to participate this year by fundraising and for Kathleen, her experience at this year’s Light The Night is the first of many.
“I was reminded about what happened to me and my journey, but it gave me this heightened level of thanks and gratitude,” Kathleen said. “Light The Night reminds me of just how fortunate and blessed I really am.”