Kathy Disher’s son, Zachary (Zac) Disher, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May 2009 at age 25. Zac died three years after his diagnosis.
Kathy Disher is turning a devastating situation into a message of hope.
Disher, of Rosewood Heights, recently was nominated as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year. Through the loss of her son, Disher has made it her personal mission to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves by working as an advocate for cancer patients and raising funds to find a cure.
Disher’s son, Zachary (Zac) Disher, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May 2009 at age 25. Zac received treatments at Siteman Cancer Center and the National Institute for Health, as well as a bone marrow transplant and various experimental treatments and clinical trials.
“Things worked for a little while; then they stopped,” Disher said.
In March 2012, three years after his diagnosis, Zac died.
Disher is a registered nurse by profession, and the Disher family knows service efforts well. While he was alive, Zac would take food to homeless people and eat with them on his lunch breaks.
“We’ve always been a family that helps people,” Disher said.
When treatments for Zac’s disease stopped being effective, Disher began networking on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society website looking for other treatment options. About a year after Zac’s death, she received an email from the society seeking out patient advocates. Disher responded and got involved in leukemia and lymphoma advocacy.
Since then, she has worked in fund-raising and patient awareness as well as advocated for patient rights and new bill proposals for home treatment coverage.
In June 2013, Disher was able to join the LLS in going to Washington, D.C., to meet with senators and congressmen to advocate for patient rights. Later, she worked to start her own fund-raiser for the society and helped to raise $5,000 in just three months over Facebook.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man and Woman of the Year campaign hopes to raise $330,000 overall for leukemia and lymphoma research, and Disher’s team goal is to raise $50,000.
“That’s a pretty lofty goal,” Disher says. “If we fall short this year, we’ll certainly go back at it.”
If Disher wins, the Disher family will get to tie their name to specific research for Zac’s disease. They will get to be included in the project, keep up with progress, and work with the professionals searching for a cure.
Being an advocate for lymphoma research has helped Disher deal with her son’s death.
“You don’t want any family to go through what you’ve gone through … I like to think somebody out there was working for Zac like we’re working for people now.”
She hopes to keep working until more effective treatments are discovered.
Disher wants to advocate and help provide awareness on a local level by making Zac’s story known as well as provide comfort and hope for those dealing with cancer in the present.
“There is hope. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. There are people working around the clock for a real cure.”
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year is an annual fund-raiser for blood cancer research and patient services. Candidates are judged by the amount of money they raise — each dollar counts as a vote. Kathy Disher is the only candidate from southern Illinois.
Disher’s team is hosting two fund-raisers before the selection of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year. The first fund-raiser is a “Cinco de Mayo” trivia night Saturday, May 3, at the Wood River VFW. The second event is the inaugural Zac Disher Memorial Golf Tournament on Saturday, May 10, at Spencer T. Olin golf course. Registration for the tournament begins at 12:30 p.m., with a shotgun start time of 1:30 p.m. Cost is $80 per player ($320 per team), and entry fee includes 18 holes of golf and cart, free range balls, beverages, dinner, one free future round of golf, a month membership into the Players Club, and attendance to an awards presentation and silent auction following the tournament. For information or sponsorship contact Cory Criter at (636) 578-7843.
Disher is also accepting individual donations of either money or items for the two fund-raisers.
For registration information or to send a donation, email Kathy Disher at firstname.lastname@example.org.