Olivia Arnold grew up in a household where cancer was somewhat of a “buzzword.”
Her father was diagnosed with cancer when she was just three years old, and to help Arnold and her brother cope, their mother signed them up for day camps and support programs for youth with parents battling cancer and fundraisers through the American Cancer Society.
Her involvement continued into her teen years as she planned the ACS’s Relay for Life fundraiser at her high school and later sat on the organization’s Colleges Against Cancer executive board while attending Marquette University.
Today, Arnold chairs the local chapter of Young Professionals of the American Cancer Society and is on the event leadership team for Relay for Life of Greater Milwaukee. Meanwhile, she’s a full-time graduate student at the Medical College of Wisconsin, researching the role of RAS gene mutations in acute myeloid leukemia.
As Arnold works toward a career in cancer research, her boots-on-the-ground advocacy keeps the science in perspective.
“Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to see beyond what I’m doing in the lab – it’s so minuscule and so much on a cellular level, that these survivors and caregivers give me a reason to be doing what I’m doing,” she said.
Since Arnold took the reigns as committee chair of YPACS - Milwaukee last year, membership has grown from less than a handful to now about 15 young professionals, ranging from hospital administrators to bankers. The group puts on monthly fundraisers to support ACS’s Road to Recovery program, which provides transportation to and from treatment for local cancer patients who are unable to drive themselves.
“What I find really cool about this group is instead of (the funds) going to the national ACS level, it stays right here in Milwaukee,” she said.
When it comes to supporting people in their individual battles against cancer, Arnold said it’s the little things like access to transportation that make a big difference.
“Helping out in these little areas are really important because it helps the patients themselves, and I think taking the burden off the patient or caregiver in whatever small capacity you can is phenomenal,” said Arnold.
These days, Arnold is keeping extra busy planning the 2022 Relay for Life, taking place on July 15. For 12 consecutive hours, teams of cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters will walk the track at the West Allis Athletic Complex to raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer. Arnold said about 200 people are expected to participate throughout the day, with a goal of raising $40,000.