Professional Women Triathletes to Give back at Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon

COLUMBIA, MD – June 16, 2016 – The world’s first “female IRONMAN” won the title by default as she was the only woman in the race. That was 1979 and now there are more than 239,000 women participating in the sport of triathlon. The IRONMAN brand has been an inclusive ambassador of the sport since its beginning and has helped to propel the number of women participating in the sport through it’s Iron Girl brand. UCF Races, the organizer of the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon presented by ClearShark, is making plans to celebrate women in the sport even more at the 2016 event on August 7th.

In its 11th annual year, the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon presented by ClearShark, one of the largest women’s sprint triathlon events in the country, is inviting professionals to be a part of the race, but not actually race. There are no prize purses or elite waves here, just four women with a strong desire to give back to their hometown and women in the sport.

“One goal of integrating professional and elite women triathletes into the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon weekend is to enhance the participant experience by adding events, training opportunities and advice from experts, “ said Erica Johnson, UCF Races Co-Race Director. “But our biggest goal is to further the prominence of women in the sport and all of these women are the type of women we want to expose our participants to, both on and off the course.”

The four women committed to participating in the weekend’s events include; 20-time Ironman Finisher, Alyssa Godesky; recent pro-card holder and medical student, Emily Sherrard; local elite triathlete, Howard County School Teacher and former Iron Girl Columbia Champion, Suzy Serpico and former USA Triathlon Athlete of the Year and Columbia Triathlon course record holder, Bec Wassner, who also has close ties with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, the beneficiary of this event.

“This initiative struck a chord with me immediately,” said professional triathlete, coach and 20-time Ironman Finisher, Alyssa Godesky. “I’m passionate about propelling women already in the sport and inspiring others to get involved. This hits close to home for me.”

Along with Alyssa, participants will have the chance to meet and interact with Emily Sherrard who is recent medical school graduate, deferring her residency to pursue her dream of professionally competing in triathlons, Bec Wassner who is recently a mother of two and is now balancing a family with training and Suzy Serpico who is a full-time teacher and running her own training business while not sacrificing her own training. These testimonials of passion, perseverance and balance are all stories that women need and want to hear, and now they’ll get to right here at a local event.

A highlight event of the weekend will be a shakeout run with Bec Wassner in Centennial Park on Saturday, August 6. Other events include a panel discussion and an opportunity for autographs and one-on-one tips. In addition, all four women will be present on race day, August 7, 2016, not racing, but cheering on the more than 1500 women participating in the day’s sprint triathlon.

To learn more about all of the weekend’s events or register, visit www.ulmanfund.org/irongirl. Registration for the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon presented by ClearShark will be open through July 22, 2016.

About the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults & UCF Races

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (ulmanfund.org) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that changes lives by creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer. Founded in 1997, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults works at both the local and national level to ensure that all young adults impacted by cancer have a voice and the necessary resources to thrive.
UCF Races was established in 2010 to further the mission of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. UCF Races produces first class endurance events that enrich the community, celebrate the achievements of every participant and ultimately spread awareness of the young adult cancer fight.

ClearShark Named Presenting Sponsor of 2016 Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon

ClearShark Named Presenting Sponsor of 2016 Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon in Partnership with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults

COLUMBIA, MD – March 16, 2016 – The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults is proud to announce an official partnership with IT Solutions Provider, ClearShark, which includes the presenting sponsorship of the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon to take place on August 7, 2016. In addition to presenting sponsor of the August event, ClearShark will also be a featured sponsor of the Columbia Triathlon on May 15, 2016; both triathlons are organized by and benefit the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Committed to supporting the local community and particularly organizations in the cancer space, ClearShark first reached out to the Ulman Cancer Fund in the fall of 2015 and the relationship has since developed into a formal partnership.

Named the best women’s event in the Mid-Atlantic, 2016 marks the 11th year of the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon, a widely popular, sprint distance race, held in Centennial Park. This inspirational event is about empowering women toward a healthy lifestyle, and celebrating each woman’s unique journey toward the finish line. The addition of ClearShark as the presenting sponsor will increase on-course support and enhance the overall race day experience for participants.

ClearShark avidly supports local community events and activities, and it is an organizational priority to donate to local charities such as the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Becoming the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon official presenting sponsor is the most recent activity in a series of engagements in which the two organizations have joined together. In November of 2015, ClearShark participated in the Across the Bay 10K, the company’s mascot ran to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund, donating $2 for every runner the mascot passed. ClearShark donated $5,000 as a result of this effort. Since then, staff members of the Ulman Cancer Fund have shared ways the organization changes the lives of young adults impacted by cancer with ClearShark employees and provided them the opportunity to put together chemo care bags for patients currently in treatment.

“The Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon is an inspiring event that empowers women athletes and promotes a healthy lifestyle, something we’re thrilled to be a part of,” said Brittany Wilson, Marketing Manager for ClearShark. “We’re looking forward to having employees participate in the race in addition to motivating athletes throughout the day.”

“Receiving support from ClearShark at this level is exciting for our entire organization and will directly benefit not only the athletes participating in our two triathlon events this year, but on a greater scale, will benefit the young adults and families we work with,” said Brian Satola, Chief Operating Officer of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

Registration for the 2016 Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon presented by ClearShark is open online at www.ulmanfund.org/ucfraces through July 22, 2016. All proceeds from the race benefit the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

About the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults & UCF Races
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (ulmanfund.org) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that changes lives by creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer. Founded in 1997, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults works at both the local and national level to ensure that all young adults impacted by cancer have a voice and the necessary resources to thrive.

UCF Races was established in 2010 to further the mission of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. UCF Races organizes the Columbia Triathlon and Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon, first class endurance events that enrich the community, celebrate the achievements of every participant and ultimately spread awareness of the young adult cancer fight.

About ClearShark
ClearShark (clearshark.com) is an IT Solutions Provider and a 2014 and 2015 Inc. 5000 company based in Hanover, Maryland. ClearShark is a team of highly experienced sales professionals who provide their expertise to deliver the best overall enterprise storage, cyber security, virtualization, high performance computing, datacenter and cloud infrastructure solutions to the federal government. ClearShark’s award-winning partnerships with industry-leading innovators ensure that their customers receive the ideal combination of products and services to exceed their mission and goals.

 

5 Questions with a 15 Time-Marathoner

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Team Fight member, Toks Fashola, will be participating in her 15th Baltimore Marathon this weekend at the Baltimore Running Festival! She is one of 30 individuals who have participated in every Baltimore Marathon to date, so we wanted to take a few minutes to recognize her for this great accomplishment and learn a few things about her as well!

1.What’s your favorite part of the Baltimore Running Festival? 

My favorite part is running in West Baltimore, around Lexington Market. I usually buy my Fish at Faidley’s and they come out and encourage us when the race begins.  When I come by towards the end,  I know that I am very close to the finish line.  :-), and that is GOOD!!!

2. Why do you participate in Team Fight? How has it become important to you? 

After my first year, Team Fight began to volunteer with Hope Lodge, I also visited some patients in the hospital, and I got to know a lot of the Team Fighters.  It is important because Cancer is a vicious disease.   Team Fight helps to keep me grounded, and it helps me to remain grateful and thankful for life and for being cancer free, even when I am upset.  The different endurance exercises that we go through in Team Fight practice are steps taken in the direction of the fight against cancer.  I know where my money is going.

3. What motivates you to keep moving after all of these years? 

No matter how difficult the event, and no matter how much the pain, I realize that it is still easier than fighting cancer. I remember boohooing when I received one of the volunteer of the year awards.  It really meant a lot to me, because that year we lost three young adults, and we visited them either at Hope Lodge or in the Hospital.  This year, the memories of Anthony BigSixthree Harvin, Dale Sanders, Nicholas O., and Troy Lewis are motivating me.  Also, the continuous fights of TJ Rufty and Darrel Henry (to name a few) will keep me moving.  And the lovely darling children from Ronald McDonald House.

4. How long do you think you’ll keep your Baltimore Marathon streak going? 

Maybe another ten years or longer?  At least until I am no longer able to run the Marathon, then I will run in other races, and I will continue to volunteer.

5.What tips do you have for people considering signing up for a marathon or other challenging endurance event? 

Just do it.  The pain that you go through during your training is a kick in the face to cancer and other debilitating diseases.  Someone will always say thank you.

Learn more about Team Fight and how you can help support the mission of the Ulman Cancer Fund by training for and participating in any fitness activity or endurance event  – anywhere in the world!

Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon to Host First Disabled Woman Triathlete

On Sunday, August 16, 2015 approximately 1800 women, ranging in age from 13 to 80, will participate in the 10th Annual Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon. Among those women will be Columbia, Maryland’s very own Defu Fekadu, the first disabled woman triathlete to participate in this race.

A Columbia, Maryland staple and an introductory triathlon for many women in the area, the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon is an inspiring women’s event on many levels, but getting a glimpse of Defu and her team at this year’s race is sure to be the most inspiring sight to see. Defu will be supported by a team of women from Athletes Serving Athletes, a non-profit organization that empowers athletes living with disabilities to train and compete in mainstream running and triathlon events. Athletes Serving Athletes (ASA) provides the assistance of able-bodied volunteers termed “Wingmen” and Defu will not only be the first disabled woman to participate in this event, but ASA will also provide for the first time, a complete team of women “Wingmen” to support her along the way.

The team consists of swimmer, Aleah Zinalabedini; biker, Melinda Peters and runner, Kerry Blackmer who will all work together with the help of their team leader, Jennifer Roussillon to assist Defu across the Iron Girl finish line. When asked about Defu and the experience so far, the ASA Wingmen each have an empowering and inspiring story of their own to share.

“Defu told me that ASA has given her a voice,” said Melinda Peters, biker wingman. “I think she is brave, not only for competing in this race but for constantly motivating and teaching others that they too can do anything they put their mind to.”

“I’m truly honored that Defu and ASA are giving me the opportunity to swim with her in this year’s Iron Girl,” said Aleah Zinalabedini, swimmer wingman. “I am consistently inspired by her beautiful smile, incredible outlook on life and ability to work through her fears with grace.”

“I’ll never forget the first time I met Defu,” said Kerry Blackmer, runner wingman. “I’m not sure that I realized then the profound impact Athletes Serving Athletes and Defu would have on my life.”

It is easy to get caught up in medals, times, awards and personal records in a race like the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon. Team Defu stands as a reminder that this race means so much more than that. This race, and anything like it that is a true test of physical strength and mental endurance, is about empowerment and finding the courage to do something that might seem impossible.

“Just like any athlete, Defu, has been training for Iron Girl. She has gone outside of her comfort zone and continues to push forward,” said Jennifer Roussillon, team leader. “Simply put, Defu is the epitome of what it means to be an Iron Girl, and I am honored and humbled to be on this journey with her.”

The 10 Year Anniversary of the Iron Girl Columbia Triathlon will take place on Sunday, August 16, 2015 in and around Centennial Park in Columbia, Maryland. The race will start with the swim portion at approximately 6:50 a.m. and continue through the late morning. For more details on the event and to view results after the event, visit www.ulmanfund.org/ucfraces/ .
About the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults & UCF Races

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (ulmanfund.org) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that changes lives by creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer. Founded in 1997, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults works at both the local and national level to ensure that all young adults impacted by cancer have a voice and the necessary resources to thrive.
UCF Races was established in 2010 to further the mission of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. UCF Races produces first class endurance events that enrich the community, celebrate the achievements of every participant and ultimately spread awareness of the young adult cancer fight.

 

About Athletes Serving Athletes

Athletes Serving Athletes (ASA) is a non-profit organization located in Maryland that empowers athletes living with disabilities to train and compete in mainstream running and triathlon events. Most ASA athletes have very limited to no mobility and compete with the assistance of able-bodied volunteers termed “Wingmen” (men and women, young and old, fast and slow). ASA offers innovative athletic training, supportive mentor relationships, and high quality endurance events for athletes living with disabilities – all of which are free of charge to the individuals and families served. To support or learn more about ASA please visit: www.athletesservingathletes.org

Whole Foods Market Columbia to Sponsor 2015 Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon

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UCF Races and the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults are proud to announce a partnership with Whole Foods Market Columbia for the 2015 Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon & Family 5K. With a focus on providing the community with natural and organic products and ways to lead a healthy lifestyle, Whole Foods Market Columbia will now serve as the presenting sponsor for the 13.1 mile women’s race and 5K family race to be held on September 12, 2015.

Known as one of the best women’s events in the Mid-Atlantic, the Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon & Family 5K, enhances the participant race experience even more with this partnership with Whole Foods Market Columbia, offering participants complimentary and discounted food items, nutrition tips and access to other all natural products on race day and in the months leading up to the event.

The Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon & Family 5K will start and finish at the Columbia Town Center, home to the 45,000 square foot Whole Foods Market which opened in late 2014. While on the 13.1 mile course route, participants will pass the store location twice and all participants and spectators will have the opportunity to take part in a post-race celebration at the square adjacent to the store.

“Whole Foods Market Columbia has been a partner of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults since it opened last year. In addition to being located on the race course, this partnership makes sense to us as we focus on the health and wellness of our community,” said Brian Satola, UCF Races Race Director. “We’re thrilled to have Whole Foods Market Columbia as the presenting sponsor, their presence and participation will not only enhance our event, but also strengthen our community in Howard County.”

“We are excited to continue this partnership and support the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults,” said Svetlana Bautista, Store Team Leader. “Supporting our community is one of Whole Foods Market’s core values, and this is a great opportunity for us at Whole Foods Market Columbia to serve our neighbors and cheer for our community as they cross the finish line.”

Registration for the 2015 Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon & Family 5K presented by Whole Foods Market Columbia is open online at www.ulmanfund.org/ucfraces through August 21, 2015. All proceeds from the race benefit the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

About the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults & UCF Races

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (ulmanfund.org) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that changes lives by creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer. Founded in 1997, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults works at both the local and national level to ensure that all young adults impacted by cancer have a voice and the necessary resources to thrive.

UCF Races was established in 2010 to further the mission of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. UCF Races produces first class endurance events that enrich the community, celebrate the achievements of every participant and ultimately spread awareness of the young adult cancer fight.

About Whole Foods Market® 

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” byHealth magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to the company’s more than 78,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by FORTUNE magazine for 15 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2013, the company had sales of $12.9 billion and currently has more than 360 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

 

 

4K for Cancer Blog Highlights

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Our 4K runs and rides have begun for 2015. The participants in these great trips are writing their own blog posts about their travels. Here are some of the best blog posts from the various runs and rides.

SAN FRANCISCO TO BALTIMORE RUN

FIRST DAY! 1 OF 49: VACAVILLE, CA

Corryn Wheatley describes her first day on her trip from San Francisco to Baltimore. She talks about getting to know her teammates and the post includes a great picture with the Golden Gate Bridge as the backdrop.

SAN FRANCISCO TO NEW YORK RUN

DAY 1: FOR CHARLOTTE & FOR SANDY

Laura Grau reports on her first day from San Francisco in her post. She describes what and who was inspiring her to run and talks about the beautiful San Francisco scenery she and her group ran through.

BALTIMORE TO PORTLAND RIDE

DAY #1

Zachary Ross lets us know how his first day went. He provides a funny story about his friend and offers some stats on his trip so far. He also posted two pictures of his team on the road.

BALTIMORE TO SEATTLE RIDE

WEEK 2

Devon Callagy provides some highlights of her second week in her trip to Seattle. The post includes food donations, some great hosts and meeting Doug Ulman.

BALTIMORE TO SAN DIEGO RIDE

4K UPDATE (SAN DIEGO): HELLO WORLD!

Before beginning his trip, Dustin Query posted a poem he wrote about his trip titled “The 4K Endeavor”. It is very nicely written and something worth looking at.

BALTIMORE TO SAN FRANCISCO RIDE

THE SECOND STRETCH: CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA TO KNOXVILLE, TN

Jamie Burke tells us a range of short stories from his trip so far, ranging from staying at a church to meeting someone who knows his astronomy advisor.

Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week: Part 3 of a Three-Part Conversation with Survivors

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The first week of April is Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week – which is a big deal around here! To commemorate, we have interviewed several members of our community. Each has been affected by this illness and faced that diagnosis with grace. Below is a compilation of their answers, which paints a broad picture of what young adults facing cancer experience. This is part three of a three part series.  

“I thought, ‘What a great way to give back to the running community, meet some cool people, and find some more purpose in my running.’ Little did I know how much CT5K and UCF would change my life.”

Everyone’s cancer journey takes twists and turns. Sometimes the road is smooth, other times it is full of bumps and potholes. We are very proud to say that no matter where a survivor is on their journey we are able to give them the support they need.

Q: How did you get involved with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF)?

James Berry: I actually found out about the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults through an ad on Facebook for their 4K for Cancer Run, and after looking into it for a few minutes I decided to make a spur of the moment decision and signed up before really talking to anyone about it.

Jennifer McRobbie: I started out as a Sherpa for Cancer to 5K (Ct5K) in 2009.  I was getting back into running, but looking for some more meaning to keep me going.  A friend, who knew Ct5K founder Holly Shoemaker, told me about the program.  I thought, “What a great way to give back to the running community, meet some cool people, and find some more purpose in my running.”  Little did I know how much CT5K and UCF would change my life.

Kelsey Barbour: I actually just happened to stumble upon the UCF. A banner ad on the side of my Facebook popped up, advertising the 4K for Cancer program. I clicked on it, perused the website for a bit and after reading more about 4K for Cancer, I knew I had to get involved.

Jason Greenspan: I found out about the UCF through Ct5K. I was with my stepdad one day at a community center and stumbled across the last brochure they had for Ct5K. I kind of thought it was fate because I’ve always wanted to run a 5K. So I looked it up to get more information and signed up for it. I am very happy to say that I’m currently the fastest Ct5K participant to date.

Melinda Hood: I got involved by doing a 5K / 1 mile run/walk that they hosted at Stupid Cancer’s national conference. Laura told me they were launching a Ct5K program in New York City so I signed up!  It was a great experience and I can’t wait to participate again!

Sonja Wagner

Sonja Wagner, 2015 4K Participant & Survivor.

Melinda Hood

Melinda Hood, Cancer to 5K participant

“My cancer diagnosis was originally just my own problem. It was personal and my only goal was to keep going. Now that my struggle is done, UCF has given me the ability to share my story and give inspiration to someone else that could be going through the same situation as me.”

Q: Did your experience with UCF open up new venues of support that weren’t available to you before?

Christa Bennett: Absolutely! My patient navigator, Allison Issacson, helped me get involved with…Cancer To 5K, the Jacquline Shearer Gala, support groups and new friendships with other survivors. I’ve had an amazing experience with the Ulman Cancer Fund and I’m forever grateful!

Gino DeFilippo: My cancer diagnosis was originally just my own problem. It was personal and my only goal was to keep going. Now that my struggle is done, UCF has given me the ability to share my story and give inspiration to someone else that could be going through the same situation as me. Another teenager who has to miss school can now talk to me about what to do and have some reassurance that graduation is still possible and that you can make new friends after this horrible journey.

Sonja Wagner: Even though I haven’t started the 4K ride yet, I still feel like I have received so much support. Most of the other participants are friends/family or caregivers of a cancer survivor so everyone is so kind and understanding. I actually had to have surgery last week to remove a cancer mass from my lung just 11 weeks before starting our ride. I was so nervous and was really stressed out about not being prepared physically for the ride after learning that the surgery would set me back a few weeks. However, with the support of my team, I have made the decision to continue my plan to ride this summer and don’t have a doubt in my mind that they are all cheering me on!

Olivia Marquart: The staff at the Ulman Cancer Fund has provided me with a group of people that are constantly supporting me. They have offered several different opportunities to connect with other people who are passionate about the young adult cancer movement. They have helped me to get involved with the Key to Keys experience this April. They were the first group I met that focused on supporting young adult cancer patients. Any other organization I went to I felt out of place because I was too old for pediatrics and too young to be in the adult side.

Shannon Shepard: The UCF has made me be a more outspoken person. When I was first diagnosed, there was not a support group for young adults with cancer. It was tough to tell my story and how I felt about things. When I found out that we had a patient navigator and she told me she was getting a group together, I thought that was a great idea. Now, I know there are others like me that are having a hard time just like me.

Brianne Kennedy-Brooks: Cancer to 5K was, and is, an integral part of my cancer journey and I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to reclaim my body and for the amazing volunteers who believed in me and pushed me to get back out there. I, honestly, could talk for hours about how amazing I think this program is. CT5K helped me to safely return to the world of running and to start feeling like my body was my own again. THANK YOU for everything you do to support this amazing program.

 

This is part three of a three part series. You can read the previous installments here and here. To be part of the conversation stay connected with us on facebook or twitter. Cancer Changes Lives…So Do We!

Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week: Part 2 of a Three-Part Conversation with Survivors

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from left to right: Gino, Jennifer, Kelsey, Christina, Melinda

 

The first week of April is Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week – which is a big deal around here! To commemorate, we have interviewed several members of our community. Each has been affected by this illness and faced that diagnosis with grace. Below is a compilation of their answers, which paints a broad picture of what young adults facing cancer experience. This is part two of a three part series.  

“My friends and peers were super supportive of me during the time leading up to my surgery and during my year of treatment on interferon. They continued to invite me to everything and treat me like they always did.”

The types of reactions that cancer patients receive from the public vary. Some interactions can be uplifting. Others, while well intended, can be frustrating. The only thing that remains constant is that everyone, from family to people on the street, seem to want to weigh in on your diagnosis.

Q: What has been the most encouraging comment or response you received during treatment?

Christa Bennett: The most encouraging response was from a friend who said that I helped her get through her hard days when she would think of my strength. That was encouraging; it makes you feel like you have to keep fighting because people need you to be strong. I also had friends, nurses and strangers praying for me and just loving on me in my time of need.

Gino DeFeilippo: All my friends were very supportive of my diagnosis. A lot of them set up a fundraiser and stopped by the hospital to give me anything they thought would be helpful. I had a collection of maybe 5 different types of blankets at the end of my 5 month stay in the hospital.

Sonja Wagner: I consider myself really lucky to have a very supportive group of friends who have been by my side for the last five plus years and four battles with cancer. Everyone was also awesome about not treating me differently even when the side effects from chemo, radiation, and surgery started to take over. Instead, they helped me shave my head, pushed me in my wheelchair when I needed it, and always made sure I had food they knew wouldn’t make me sick.

Shannon Shepard: The most helpful response was from my family and the nursing staff. My mom was there majority of the time during the heavy treatment. When she wasn’t able to come and see me, the nurses who took care of me would play games, watch movies, and talk to me.

Kelsey Barbour: …everyone was extremely supportive, and even people I may not have been in contact with frequently reached out to me. I received wonderful cards and well wishes through social media, which was so touching.

James Berry: My friends and peers were super supportive of me during the time leading up to my surgery and during my year of treatment on interferon. They continued to invite me to everything and treat me like they always did. The side effects from my treatment were flu like symptoms, like fatigue, nausea, and extremely sore joints. Also my hair began to thin and fall out, and in hindsight I should have just cut my losses and shaved my head, but losing my hair would actually make me look like a cancer patient. Fortunately, my balding head didn’t affect the way my friends treated me throughout the year.

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Kelsey Barbour training for the 4K

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Jennifer McRobbie (third from left)

“The most frustrating response,  to be honest, was all the people that kept telling me, ‘You got this. I’m not worried.’ Or the alternative, ‘You’re strong.  You’ll be fine.’ Those statements were frustrating for me because the underlying message, at least in my chemo-addled brain, was that I didn’t have a right to feel scared.”

Q: What has been the most frustrating comment or response you received during treatment?

Brianne Kennedy-Brooks: The most frustrating responses–though made with good intentions–were always the initial, aghast responses of “Oh! But you’re so young!” when they would learn I had cancer. I understood their knee-jerk reactions of shock (after all, I felt it too), but it definitely made me feel more isolated when I walked around the cancer center and everyone just knew me as “the young, pretty one who brings presents.”

Olivia Marquart: The most frustrating part of treatment right now is knowing that my diagnosis will be a lifelong issue. Right now with my treatment plan I do not have an end date for chemo like most patients. Trying to explain that to people outside of the cancer world are sometimes frustrating because they don’t understand that every cancer is different. There is no cookie cutter treatment plan when it comes to cancer.

Jennifer McRobbie: The most frustrating response,  to be honest, was all the people that kept telling me, “You got this.  I’m not worried.”  Or the alternative, “You’re strong.  You’ll be fine.”  Those statements were frustrating for me because the underlying message, at least in my chemo-addled brain, was that I didn’t have a right to feel scared.  That if I had a bad day, it meant I wasn’t “doing cancer the right way.”  That I had to keep up the strong warrior front in order to live up to their “not worried” feelings.  It’s hard enough to say to your friends and family that you’re feeling vulnerable and scared and upset. It’s even harder to be vulnerable when you feel like there’s an expectation that you’re some battle-hardened soldier in the war on cancer.  These types of statements don’t acknowledge the range of emotions you feel upon diagnosis and during treatment.

Melinda Hood: By far the most frustrating thing, and this still happens, is the response “but you’re so young.”  Uterine cancer is most common among women in their 50’s and 60’s. I remember being in my oncologist’s office waiting for my appointment. A women leaned over and said, “It’s so nice that you’re here with your mom.” I just did the smile and nod. My cover was blown when my name got called for my appointment.

This is part one of a three part series. To be part of the conversation stay connected with us on facebook or twitter. Help spread awareness about Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer by sharing this post with family and friends! Cancer Changes Lives…So Do We!

Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week: Part 1 of a Three-Part Conversation with Survivors

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from left to right: Olivia Marquart, Jason Greenspan, Sonja Wagner (in yellow), Brianne Kennedy-Brooks (in yellow), Shannon Shepard

The first week of April is Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week – which is a big deal around here! To commemorate this special occasion, we have interviewed several members of our community. Each has been affected by this illness and has faced the diagnosis with grace. Below is a compilation of their answers, which paints a broad picture of what young adults facing cancer experience. This is part one of a three part series.  

“Cancer was something that happened to older people who had lived their lives already and were on their way out. Cancer wasn’t something that should happen to someone who was young, healthy and had so many plans ahead.”

Every year 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer. That’s a big number – a really big number. And still, one of the biggest hurdles young adults with this disease face are feelings of isolation. While it isn’t uncommon, unfortunately, to know someone in their 50s, 60s or 70s with cancer, it is a different story for those under the age of 40. When it comes to finding peers to relate to, young adults with this illness struggle.

Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed? Before your diagnosis did you know anyone your age with cancer?

Christa Bennet: I was twenty-four, turning 25. Before being diagnosed I didn’t know anyone, personally, with cancer.

Gino DeFilippo: I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia when I was sixteen in 2012. At the time I didn’t know anyone with cancer. I just kind of thought it was something that happened when you got older and there was no possibility for anyone active and healthy at my age. I knew of a few people who had cancer as a kid, but no one that had it as a teenager.

Sonja Wagner: I was nineteen years old and a sophomore in college. I had never met anyone my age who was suffering from cancer.

Brianne Kennedy-Brooks: I was diagnosed at the age of 30, with no family history, no risk factors, no warning signs…nothing. I was a rule-follower when it came to my health in every aspect. I was a girl who did everything right and never in a million years thought it could happen to me. Cancer was something that happened to older people who had lived their lives already and were on their way out. Cancer wasn’t something that should happen to someone who was young, healthy and had so many plans ahead.

Jason Greenspan: I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. I was diagnosed right before my Senior prom and graduation. I did not know anyone my age at the time that had cancer.

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Olivia Marquart

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Jason Greenspan

“When I was diagnosed, some friends were paralyzed with fear. Some sprang into immediate action. Others looked at me like they didn’t know me any more.”

Finding a reliable network of peers can be difficult for young adults facing cancer. When turning to friends who have no prior experience with a cancer diagnosis, support can be mixed at best.

Q: How did your friends/peers react to your diagnosis? And how did they react to the side effects of your treatment?

Olivia Marquart: Everyone reacted in their own way when they found out about my diagnosis. I had friends who heard my news and immediately offered their support. They were willing to help in any way. My friends understood when I was tired or couldn’t do much. They were more than willing to come visit or watch movies when I was on the couch resting. I also had people who heard my diagnosis and cut me out of their lives. They stopped talking to me and acted as if my diagnosis was an issue that wasn’t their problem.

Shannon Shepard: When I first told my friends I was diagnosed with cancer, they were sad and scared. They would keep in touch all the time. When I started having side effects and going through several complications, they started to drift away and not keep in touch.

James Berry: My friends and peers were super supportive of me during the time leading up to my surgery and during my year of treatment on interferon. They continued to invite me to everything and treat me like they always did. My family and friends are what got me through my treatment and I can’t thank them enough. The side effects from my treatment were flu like symptoms, like fatigue, nausea, and extremely sore joints. Also my hair began to thin and fall out, and in hindsight I should have just cut my losses and shaved my head but losing my hair would actually make me look like a cancer patient. Fortunately my balding head didn’t effect the way my friends treated me throughout the year.

Jennifer McRobbie: When I was diagnosed, some friends were paralyzed with fear. Some sprang into immediate action. Others looked at me like they didn’t know me any more. But, I can’t blame them. I didn’t really know myself any more either.

During treatment, I think people were surprised that I didn’t look *more* terrible. So, there was a lot of surprise that I was out and about.  I chose not to wear scarves or a wig when I lost my hair.  So, I just traipsed around bald. It was an issue of “owning it” for me.  But, my openness about it all might have made it harder on some of my friends. I mean, it’s hard to ignore when the symptoms are right in your face. Most of my friends were great about it and never showed that they were uncomfortable – even if they were.

Kelsey Barbour: Initially, I think we were all pretty shocked. In college, we tend to think we are invincible and our biggest challenge is getting out of bed for an 8 AM class. But I think being diagnosed with cancer really made me and even my friends take a step back. However, right from the start, everyone was so incredibly supportive of me and my family.

Melinda Hood: My friends and peers were in shock at first.  [But] overall, they were amazingly loving and supportive.  A friend who came over the night I found out brought a bottle of booze.  We talked and drank most of the night.  My main side effects were menopause, because my ovaries were removed, and the physical effects of the surgery.  My friends and my work were extremely understanding and accommodating.  “Need a nap in the middle of the work day?”, sure there’s the couch. “Pajama bottoms more comfortable to wear to work after surgery than regular pants?”, no problem!

This is part one of a three part series. To be part of the conversation stay connected with us on facebook or twitter. Help spread awareness about Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer by sharing this post with family and friends! Cancer Changes Lives…So Do We!

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults’ Blue Jeans and Bowties Ball celebrates 17-year anniversary and honorees

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Community members and organizations to be honored for their contributions to the young adult cancer fight on Saturday, January 24, 2015.

BALTIMORE, Maryland – January 20, 2015 – The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF) will celebrate its 17-year anniversary and honor community members and organizations who contribute to and further UCF’s mission to create a community of support for young adults and their loved ones, as they fight cancer and embrace survivorship. The Blue Jeans & Bow Ties Ball will be held on Saturday, January 24, 2015, from 7:00 pm – 11:30 pm at M&T Bank Stadium, Club Level South. The evening will include gourmet buffet stations, signature drinks, beer and wine, silent and live auctions, and dancing. The event emcees will be Comcast Sports Network Anchor, Brent Harris, and Ironman Announcer, Jeff Meeks, with entertainment provided by Badmoon.

Honorees include:

Ulman Family Founders’ Award                                   Hope Award

Jamie Roberts (posthumously)                                Children’s National Medical Center
The Shearer Family

 

Volunteer Service Award                                               Partner Award

Cancer to 5K Coaches                                            Navigator Management Partners
There Goes My Hero

Young Adult “FIGHT” Award

Mike Tirone
Alex Feinberg
Paul Lemle
Patti Jackson
Bo Oliver

“Our Blue Jeans and Bowties Ball continues to make a lasting impact on those who attend. This year, we are excited to honor some amazing individuals and partners in a thrilling new venue, M&T Bank Stadium. We are humbled by the support and dedication to our mission by of each of our. We look forward to showcasing each individual and organization as well as highlighting UCF’s many accomplishments which are making a positive impact in the lives of young adults and their loved ones affected by cancer,” said Brock Yetso, UCF’s President & CEO. “We look forward to sharing a wonderful evening with our supporters and hope to continue to inspire and engage individuals in growing our community of support so we can continue our programs and services for many years to come.” 

About Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults:

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, founded in 1997, is the national leader in providing specialized support for young adults affected by cancer. With nearly 70,000 young adults diagnosed every year, UCF helps young people fight the disease and navigate treatment by providing access to information, support groups, and other specialized programs. UCF Patient Navigation Programs have set a national standard and can be accessed remotely or through onsite Patient Navigators at a growing number of hospitals in the Mid-Atlantic region. UCF changes lives by creating a community of support for young adults, and their loved ones, as they fight cancer and embrace survivorship. For more information, please visit, http://www.ulmancancerfund.org.

Media Contact Information:
Rachel Wiederhold
UCF Director, Human Resources & Operations
(410) 964-0202 x 107

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