Pee-wee is Raising Awareness
- Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman, the quirky character created by the actor for the ’80s smash hit film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, is using his platform for a charitable cause: helping a California high school student raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
- The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society holds a Student of the Year fundraising campaign every year, and Reubens’ friend Lucy Crew has been given the opportunity to help a cause close to her heart.
- Leukemia and lymphoma are types of blood cancers. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a very aggressive type of blood cancer, whereas chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is more common and slow-growing, according to leading experts who explain blood cancers to SurvivorNet.
The actor, whose real name is Paul Reubens, 68, goes by his famed Pee-wee’s Big Adventure character name on social media, because why not? The film was such a huge success that he would never be able to escape being type-cast anyway, so he’s made a career off of being Pee-wee Herman for life, aka loveably weird and wacky.Read More
H.S. sophomore Lucy Crew is raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to discover a cure for blood cancers. Great gal/great cause! Throw her campaign some cash, if you have the means! https://t.co/ll1ZjVayTa
— Pee-wee Herman (@peeweeherman) May 11, 2021
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society holds a Student of the Year fundraising campaign every year, and Reubens’ friend Lucy has been given the opportunity to help a cause “close to her heart.” The San Luis Obispo High School student is being honored along with her friend Lexi Alltucker, and they’ve named their team “The Blood Blasters,” raising money for blood cancers.
The goal is to “raise $25,000 for patients receiving treatment for, or in remission of a blood cancer,” she wrote in a post on the event’s website.
The 7-week fundraising campaign, which ends May 14, helps support the LLS “in its goal of discovering a cure for blood cancers, as well as assisting the patients and families that endure the tragic disease,” she says. “These conditions have touched and continue to touch thousands of families every year, and I could not be more excited to be a part of the change made worldwide.”
Lucy also shared a touching story about how the organization has helped a nine-year-old boy from Arroyo Grande, California named Mateo.
“He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2013, as he was nearing his 2nd birthday,” Lucy explains. “After rigorous chemotherapy and monitoring in his blood work, Mateo has been in remission since October 21st, 2013.”
Mateo was able to overcome cancer with the help of his older brother, who was his bone marrow donor in 2019. “Our desire in taking part in this campaign is to raise awareness and help others like Mateo.”
As for Reubens, his Instagram page is full of glorious flashbacks and definitely worth a follow as well, and also boasts 2 million followers. For the sake of nostalgia, let’s just refer to him as Herman.
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The New Yorker, who started doing comedy at The Groundlings improv theatre when he came to Los Angeles in the ’70s, also keeps his webpage updated, and recently announced the news of an HBO documentary about him in the works.
“I’ve been working with HBO since they were called Home Box Office,” he said via Deadline. “I’m honored and excited to continue my long history there. I love HBO, but I’m not going to marry them.”
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The charitable star also participated in Celebrity Wheel of Fortune to benefit feeding America in February, scoring $52,000 and sending Twitter into a frenzy, since Pee-wee sightings are so rare.
Learning About Blood Cancers
Leukemia and lymphoma are types of blood cancers, but how are they different from regular cancers?
Leukemias are cancers that start in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow. When these cells become leukemic, they stop maturing properly and grow out of control. Eventually, they spill into the bloodstream. Because they are essentially abnormal white blood cells, they prevent your blood from doing normal things like fighting infections, keeping your energy up and preventing excessive bleeding.
Leukemia specialist Dr. Nicole Lamanna, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, tells SurvivorNet how these cancers affect the blood.
“Blood cancers in general affect different parts of the white blood cell count, which we need in a very basic way to help fight this infection,” she explains. “Your blood elements do lots of things. One is to keep energy. One is to fight infection. Two are to help with clotting or to prevent patients from bleeding.”
So leukemias in general “impair your normal blood elements’ ability to do all the things they’re supposed to do.”
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common type of leukemia that affects older adults. The average age of most patients at diagnosis is about 70 years old. CLL accounts for about one-quarter of new cases of leukemia each year. Because CLL is a slow-growing, chronic cancer many people won’t necessarily need treatment at diagnosis. Instead, patients are monitored and their blood count tracked to determine whether and when treatment is actually required.
Conversely, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is what the 9-year-old boy had that Lucy mentioned, is a very fast-moving cancer.
“ALL is a type of cancer that is very aggressive,” Dr. Olalekan Oluwole, a hematologist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center tells SurvivorNet. “It grows very fast. Within a few weeks, a few months, the person will start to feel very sick. And that’s why we will have to give it an equally aggressive type of treatment to break that cycle.”
He says the bone marrow is where the lymphoid cells are made. And then they go into the lymph nodes to mature.
“So that’s where many times the leukemia is to residing in the bone marrow, because it is an abnormal growth. And it just keeps dividing. It doesn’t follow rules,” he says. “And it doesn’t stop, not only that, because this is part of the immune system, the immune system is sort of like the police of the body. So those abnormal cells that have now become cancer, they have the ability to go to many places. They go into the blood. And they often go into the tissue or the lining around the brain. So that’s why we need to know whether they are there.”
“In other words, by the time somebody comes to us and they have active lymphoblastic leukemia, we already assume that it has gone everywhere in the body,” he says. “And we have to treat them like that.”