Kathy Disher wants the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to name her Woman of the Year, but not for the glory of being the top fundraiser in their Gateway chapter. Disher’s reasons are much more personal.
If Disher, 58, a registered nurse who lives in Rosewood Heights, can raise $50,000 by the end of June, she and her husband, Terry, will be able to link their son’s name to a research project in the fight against blood cancers.
“That really is our goal — to honor Zac’s memory,” she said.
Zac Disher was 28 when he lost his battle against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012. There is no blood test to diagnose the cancer and by the time symptoms appeared, Zac was in Stage 4.
“Because he didn’t look sick, it was such a surprise,” Disher said. “It’s a very aggressive cancer. If anyone thinks anything is wrong, it’s so important to get checked out. It can happen so quickly.”
Disher said Zac loved working on the field crew for the St. Louis Cardinals, a job he held for six years. According to Disher’s fundraising page, Zac often dressed in his Cardinal-red work shirts while watching the game at home and getting his chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the hospital.
“He got a kick out of people thinking he was a player when they saw he worked for the Cardinals,” Disher said.
The year after Zac passed away, Disher and her husband decided they wanted to help people get the best treatment they could and live their best lives. The two work as patient advocates and in fundraising.
The leukemia organization sent her research projects for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Disher plans to have them vetted by a doctor at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., who was instrumental in helping Zac.
“We spent 18 months going back and forth to the NIH to work with doctors who extended Zac’s life,” she said. “The Siteman Cancer Center (in St. Louis) had wonderful doctors. Zac did well there and was in a clinical trial with good results. But unfortunately, he didn’t make it.”
The leukemia organization has several fundraising campaigns, such as Team in Training, Penny Drives, Light the Night, and the Man and Woman of the Year campaign. Every dollar raised counts as one vote and the titles are awarded to the man and woman with the most votes at the end of 10 weeks.
So far, Disher has raised $20,000 through online donations and local events. Recently, the Old Bakery Beer Company’s monthly Drink to a Cause benefited Disher’s campaign. A golf tournament scheduled for May 7 at Spencer T. Olin is sold out.
“This is the third year and the first time we’ve had a full field,” Disher said. “We’re thrilled.”
Vendors and donations for raffle items are welcome. The final local event is a beer and wine tasting June 22 hosted by Bella Milano in Edwardsville. Donations are being accepted for that event as well.
The biggest fundraiser, though, is a gala May 5 at the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis that includes oral and silent auctions. Disher anticipates raising another $10,000 or so. That night determines the winner of the best man and woman contest. Regardless, Disher has until the end of June to raise money enough to link Zac’s name to research.
“Zac loved his family and loved animals, especially his Boston terrier, Stewart,” Disher wrote in an email. “He is very much missed.”