ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s said that family isn’t about blood, it’s about who’s willing to hold your hand when you need it the most.
This “Remarkable Woman” finalist has held the hand of many people in the Capital Region.
Deanna Wicklund took a life-changing diagnosis and made it her mission that others hearing the same news could focus on their journey to health, saying, “It just makes you feel like you’re paying it forward.”
It’s been 10 years since Deanna was diagnosed with advanced leukemia, spending weeks in Boston for treatment and a stem cell transplant. Her husband cared for their four young children at home.
“Having left your entire family behind without thinking about it or planning for it, was a big jolt to our family,” she recalled. “Having all that time on your own to think about your circumstances away from everybody else really makes you realize how fortunate we were and how unfortunate it is for many people with a blood cancer.”
It may sound strange to hear someone who had cancer say they felt fortunate, but Deanna saw what happens to those who did not have the same support or insurance she had.
“The patient has to stop working, and then if you only have one person, your husband, your spouse, your significant other who helps you, they might have to stop working or significantly reduce their hours,” Deanna noted.
That’s when Wicklund Warriors was born.
“They did a “Light the Night” team for the Wicklund Warriors while I was still in the hospital,” Deanna shared as she showed pictures from the group’s website, “we had all these people show up to walk and raise money for us 18:08 and that’s how we initially funded our travel assistance program.”
From helping patients pay to travel for treatment, her group has expanded to help with whatever financial curveball a family faces as they battle blood cancer: a car or mortgage payment, utilities or groceries.
“Maybe they were living paycheck to paycheck and this wasn’t part of their plan and now they have no financial reserves, so it’s different for everybody but they all have one defining thing, that they need the money.”
It’s not just cash that’s so desperately needed, Deanna provides a connection.
“Oftentimes you’ll meet with people and they’ll say oh my gosh I felt so isolated, and alone and I didn’t know there were people I could talk to. I think just letting them know they’re going to be ok and there are other people, that’s what I really enjoy the most, the personal connection.”
And more people than ever need the help and hope.
“This past year has been explosive for us,” Deanna told us.
With 40 applicants this year alone, Deana couldn’t meet with everyone on her own.
“So this year we evolved to form what we call the bad blood club.”
Wicklund Warriors board members who are fellow blood cancer survivors share their time with those newly diagnosed, showing bad blood isn’t always permanent.
“I’ve also learned surviving cancer is that you just have to let go of all the little minutia of life and focus on what’s really important.”
Lessons learned and shared over 10 years resulted in 115 families helped and more than $160,000 distributed so far, and Wicklund Warriors are ready to help fight battles yet to come.
“I feel incredibly honored to do this.”