By Kody Acevedo
Jeff Luttrell, simply stated, is an inspiration.
For most of his life, he’s battled multiple forms of cancer. Yet, he continues to fight every day to live and be able to help others battling with him.
“I think what people need to know is no matter how rough it gets, there is always an out,” Jeff said.
Diagnosed with leukemia in 1993 as a child, Jeff endured five years of chemo and three rounds of radiation. A bone-marrow transplant in 2000 gave him about nine healthy years before he was diagnosed with a secondary form of cancer in 2009. This time the cancer was in his mouth.
That fight lasted for about eight years, costing him part of his tongue, chin and jaw. But through the miracles of modern-day medicine, Jeff was given a new hope.
Doctors took part of his shoulder blade to recreate his chin and jaw.
“My surgeon kind of took me apart,” Jeff said. “Then after eight hours in surgery, took everything out and put me back together again.”
A year after surgery, you wouldn’t be able to tell all of this by looking at him or by listening to his passion for life.
“It was rough there for a while, but I got through it.”
Now, Jeff, along with his mother Patti, do all they can to help families with children battling cancer. Patti is the founder of Children’s Cancer Network, a 501c3 supporting Arizona children and families throughout their cancer journey with programs and services designed to provide financial assistance, promote education, encourage healthy lifestyles and create an awareness of issues faced related to childhood cancer
“What we do is kind of fill the gaps,” Patti said. “Insurance is [on one side], the hospitals are [on the other side] and we kind of try to take care of all the little things that fall in the middle.”
CCN was founded after Jeff’s stints in the hospital. The Luttrell family noticed the struggles families faced both financially and mentally during such a trying time.
According to Patti, some families report paying up to $10,000 annually for things like gas and extra child care just to get to and from the hospitals based on the needs of their child’s care.
That’s where CCN steps in.
“Last year we raised $75,000 in food or gas cards alone,” Patti said.
Over their 15-year existence, CCN has provided $4.5 million for Arizona families through gas cards, food cards, support programs and scholarships.
Part of their fundraising efforts includes the annual Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, hosted by Grand Canyon University.
After seven years as a sponsor, 2018 marks the first time the Chandler-based CCN will spearhead the event.
“The run has provided us an opportunity to really reach out, not in terms of a fundraiser, but in terms of advocacy,” Patti said.
Patti said 87 percent of the 5k, 10k and cancer survivors walk revenue will go toward Arizona families.
And to add a personal touch, Jeff, who has a bachelor’s degree in design, designed the medals the participants will receive when they cross the finish line.
“I think it’s really special to have something that they go away with be designed by somebody who has been through it,” Patti said.
The 8th Annual Run to Fight Children’s Cancer was held March 10 at Grand Canyon University. For more info: runtofightcancer.com.