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Teacher climbs for leukemia funds

A simple blood test may have saved Tami Wall's life.

Wall, a third-grade teacher at Helen Haller Elementary School, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in October.

After the initial shock, Wall decided she wanted to do something about it. Something like climbing a building.

On March 22, Wall and her three sons Corey (23 years old), Casey (13) and Cole (10) made the climb up 69 flights of stairs at Seattle's Columbia Tower as part of The Big Climb.

The Big Climb is The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society - Washington/Alaska Chapter's largest fundraiser. In 2008, more than 5,400 participants ran, walked and crawled up the 1,311 steps of the Columbia Center and raised more than $1 million.

That dollar figure was the chapter's goal in 2009 as well and Wall said the chapter made the mark.

A few days before her climb, Wall said she and her team of climbers - dubbed "The Wall Climbers" - raised $2,700 for leukemia research.

It's an effort that Wall said may save her life.

In October, the 19-year veteran of Sequim schools had gotten a blood test after which doctors found an abnormal amount of white blood cells. She was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a form of leukemia afflicting more than 4,800 persons in 2008, according to the Leukemia Research Foundation.

"I would have never known except for that," Wall says. "I was losing weight but I was happy with that."

Wall is taking a leukemia treatment drug Gleevec and, without siblings, likely cannot getting a bone marrow transplant.

Instead of keeping it close, Wall decided to tell her friends, family and students at the school, getting involved in running activities with them to, "show how healthy someone with leukemia can be."

Wall said she's even got a "bucket list" of things to do before she dies. One of those is a walk to the Dungeness Spit lighthouse and she's already checked that one off. That climb to the top of the Columbia Tower is off the list, too.

In June, she plans to check off two more bucket list entries: a half marathon

(Sequim to Port Angeles) and a full marathon (Seattle).

"I have the gift," Wall says, "of knowing that life is precious."



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.



The 'blood cancer'

Leukemia often is referred to as cancer of the blood. It is characterized by the widespread uncontrolled proliferation of large numbers of abnormal blood cells, usually white blood cells, which take over the bone marrow and quickly spread to the blood stream. Other organs that also may be affected include lymph nodes, spleen, liver and central nervous system. Leukemia has many types and subtypes, affecting children and adults alike.



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