Lawrence doctor ready for Light the Night Walk after bone marrow transplant

Light the Night Walk on Saturday

An estimated 137,260 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2010, and those diseases will kill an estimated 54,020 people, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society website. The Light the Night Walk is an annual fundraiser to support research to fight these cancers.

In Lawrence, the fundraising goal is $100,000.

Registration begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at South Park, and the walk begins at 7:45 p.m. Individuals and teams may participate. The route begins at the park and goes north on Massachusetts Street to Seventh Street, then east to New Hampshire Street and back south to the park.

Participants will carry color-coded balloons: red for supporters, white for survivors and gold in memory of those lost to cancer.

Three local restaurants — 23rd Street Brewery, Biggs BBQ and Wheat State Pizza — will provide food for donations.

New this year, Landers Vision of Kansas City, Mo., will put on a laser light show at the park at the end of the walk.

Volunteers are still needed to help with the event. Please contact Jenn Melling at (913) 262-1515 or e-mail

Dr. Rod Barnes is an athletic guy — running, swimming, biking, you name it — but it’s a simple stroll around downtown Lawrence that has captured his imagination this year.

That’s because the stroll is the annual Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society — and because Barnes recently underwent a bone-marrow transplant after a harrowing five-year battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

“I’m feeling great,” said Barnes, 60, a partner in Lawrence Family Medicine and Obstetrics. “The transplant was successful. I couldn’t ask for any better outcome.”

Barnes returned Friday from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where, in July, he had received bone marrow from a donor on the national bone marrow registry.

“It was a perfect match, or as close to perfect as it gets right now. I have the immune system of this 46-year-old female,” he said, which is all he currently knows about the woman who saved his life. But he hopes to learn much more once the mandatory year of anonymity between donor and recipient expires in July.

That’s also when he hopes to return to his medical practice. He hasn’t been able to work for eight months. Because the transplant procedure means a weakened immune system, it will be another eight months before he can safely be around patients and the various contagious diseases they bring into his office.

No one will be happier to see him back than Joni Lawrence, who has worked as a nurse in Barnes’ office for the past 30 years. She is also the captain of Team Rod Barnes, which has already raised about $8,000 for Saturday’s Light the Night Walk, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“This is our banner year,” Lawrence said of Barnes’ homecoming and the dozens of friends, co-workers and relatives who make up the team that has participated every year since Barnes was diagnosed in 2006. “We’ll have well over 100 people. It’s pretty incredible.”

Will Barnes be among them and the 45 other teams who walk the downtown loop from South Park and the thousands of teams who walk all over the U.S. and Canada? He desperately hopes to be, but it all depends on how he’s feeling Saturday evening, he said. A recently contracted virus — typical in transplant patients — has temporarily weakened him and may preclude an appearance at the event.

“Emotionally, though, I’m there,” he said.