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Coffee for a Cure at Caffe Amouri

Lymphoma survivor leads team to fundraise on behalf of lymphoma research.

Remission Ride team leader Valerie Kappler with Caffe Amouri owner Michael Amouri at the shop’s Coffee for a Cure on Sept. 7.

Remission Ride team leader Valerie Kappler with Caffe Amouri owner Michael Amouri at the shop’s Coffee for a Cure on Sept. 7. Photo by Donna Manz.

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Caffe Amouri was filled with Coffee for a Cure supporters. Twenty percent of the morning’s sales were donated to the Remission Riders on behalf of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

It’s typical of Caffe Amouri on Church Street to host and participate in community fundraising events. On Friday, Sept. 7, Caffe Amouri donated 20 percent of the morning’s sales to the Vienna Remission Riders. One of the shop’s regular customers, who owner Michael Amouri finds “beloved” and “amazing,” is a former lymphoma patient riding to raise money on behalf of lymphoma research. And, for the fourth year, Caffe Amouri is behind her.

In November of 2008, Vienna mother of four Valerie Kappler was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins follicular B cell lymphoma. Today, Kappler is cancer-free, in remission, and her personal mission is to support research funding for the Lymphoma Research Foundation [LRF]. Without their work, Kappler believes she would not be alive today.

The third annual Coffee for a Cure at Caffe Amouri, said Kappler, is “truly a heartwarming community event which once again displays the ‘small town’ support of the Vienna area.”

“Until 1995, my lymphoma was a death sentence … Because of research, there are many of us who are alive. My medicines were not around five years ago, and here I am, cancer-free.”

—Valerie Kappler, Vienna, Remission Rider

THE COFFEEHOUSE overflowed with customers all morning, many of whom were milling around Kappler. She wore her team jersey and handed out Lymphoma Research Ride registration forms, all the time smiling and greeting supporters. Some supporters were friends, some came as someone touched by cancer in their lives. Some supporters, like Deb Granato, who lost her husband to cancer, stopped by because she supports cancer research completely. Amouri says his business sponsors Coffee for a Cure because that is what the local business should do. “It’s our commitment to the community,” Amouri said.

Valerie Kappler and her husband did a Google search on the cancer diagnosis after learning of her disease. When they did so, they read the diagnosed disease had a 10-year life expectancy for the patient. The information the Kapplers found was, fortunately, outdated. It was a prominent lymphoma specialist at Georgetown who directed Kappler to a clinical trial in 2009 that has saved her life. The trial was not available five years ago.

Kappler’s father, Dr. John Sever, was the chief of infectious diseases at NIH for over 27 years and still sits on the board of the National Cancer Institute for pediatric oncology. He helped the Kapplers understand the cancer and accompanied the couple on each doctor’s visit, continuing to do so even now. Valerie Kappler met with two oncologists at NIH before her referral to Dr. Bruce Cheson, lymphoma specialist at Georgetown University. Cheson heads the board of all lymphoma research programs in the country.

By the time Kappler saw Dr. Cheson for the first time, her cancer had progressed from stage two to stage three. Cheson encouraged her to enroll in a clinical trial researched and funded by the Lymphoma Research Foundation and by NIH. She started her first treatment in April 2009 and was in full remission by June 4.

“The treatment I received was of two monoclonal antibodies which are antibodies which latch onto specific parts of specific cancer cells,” explained Kappler. “My body then recognized them as foreign and my white blood cells then destroyed the cancer cells. The only side effect I had was fatigue. No hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, etcetera. It's been over three years and I'm still cancer-free.”

Dr. Cheson and his wife founded a bike ride to raise money for the Lymphoma Research Foundation, calling the fundraiser the Lymphoma Research Ride. Once again this year, on Sunday, Sept. 30, Kappler and her family, friends and supporters take to the the Barnesville, Md., countryside to participate in the Lymphoma Research Ride. Since fall of 2009, when her team consisted of herself and friend Suzanne Zolldan, the Remission Riders have raised over $50,000 for the Lymphoma Research Foundation. The team grew from two to 18 riders the following year, and, in 2011, 23 riders participated as Remission Riders. Participants can do either the 25-mile or the 50-mile ride. Each participant is required to pay a $1,000 registration fee. That’s where the fundraising helps.

“I’m doing it [the ride] because the research done by LRF literally saved my life,” Kappler said.

PERSONAL DONATIONS and community sponsorships, such as those supported by Caffe Amouri and the Oakton Wine Shop Taste for a Cure, car washes, raffles and auctions, support the Remission Riders’ fundraising mission. On Saturday, Sept. 15, the Oakton Wine Shop hosts its fundraiser for Remission Riders and everyone is welcomed.

Kappler knows that, to date, there is no cure for her lymphoma and it will return, but she believes that she is living proof that research is the answer to finding a cure for cancer.

The Lymphoma Research Foundation is one of the few cancer research organizations in which funding goes directly to lymphoma research only. The LRF comprises the top lymphoma specialists in the country.

Their research is invaluable, Kappler said.

“Until 1995, my lymphoma was a death sentence,” said Kappler. “Because of research, there are many of us who are alive. My medicines were not around five years ago, and here I am, cancer-free.

“The money given to research pays off. I’m living proof.”

To donate or sign up as a Remission Rider, go to Lymphoma.org/ride2012.

For information on lymphomas, go to the Lymphoma Research Foundation’s website at lymphoma.org. Kappler refers to their information as cutting-edge, educational and free.