Amanda’s Story

I was 23 when my life changed forever.

I know this isn’t a groundbreaking statement – lots of people graduate, get a new job, get married, or do other life-changing things at 23.

I got cancer.

I had graduated from the University of Hartford and stayed on campus to get a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. I played Division I basketball at Hartford and was excited to go into a career related to sports. My plans were interrupted though, when a chronic health issue I’d quietly managed on my own got out of control.

For seven or eight years, I had been dealing with an embarrassing problem – gastric distress and bleeding – on and off; sometimes mild, sometimes severe. I hardly talked to anyone about it, and when doctors played it down, tried to blame it on my diet, or told me to wait it out, I just accepted what they said. I had to miss a game now and then, but overall I learned to live with it. What I realize now is that I was living with a pit in my stomach every time I would see that blood, but not want to talk to anyone about it.

During my first year in the DPT program, I got pretty sick and felt like I had to push harder for a diagnosis of some sort – that pit was telling me that something bad had to be going on. It was really hard to advocate for myself. Little did I know it was the first of many times I would have to speak up more than I felt comfortable with or make a decision I didn’t feel ready to make.

I had a colonoscopy and was expecting to hear that I had Chron’s Disease or IBD.

Nope – colon cancer. WTF.

I had been prepared to give up gluten, but I was NOT ready for moving home, putting down tens of thousands of dollars for fertility preservation, surgery, chemo, radiation, losing tons of weight, botched surgery, more surgery, hysterectomy, ostomy bag.

I also wasn’t ready for the feelings I had when I started my PT clinicals. I would go straight from the infusion room to the PT clinic, from hearing deathly ill people talk about their hopes of healing to hearing perfectly healthy people complain about how much a sprained ankle was cramping their style. I may have been the youngest person in that room getting chemo, but I felt for all of those survivors beside me and realized I wanted to give back to people like them.

After I was through with that litany of treatments and learned to live with my ostomy, I enrolled in nursing school at Johns Hopkins and a year later started working on the adult inpatient leukemia unit. I was so happy to be in a place to support these people I shared a kinship with.

But when I left work every day, I was alone. Forget dating – there was no way I was getting close to intimate with anybody with my new “companion” always at my side. No social sports or working out to relieve stress either; I didn’t think intense physical activity was an option for me anymore.

Then a friend from high school who also lives in Baltimore told me about the Ulman Cancer Fund and its Body of Young Adult Advisors. I checked it out – somewhat hesitantly – but once I was halfway through my first BOYAA meeting I knew I had found my place. These people looked and acted like me, and they spoke my cancer language. For the first time, I had peers my own age who could actually understand what I had been through, and some had even been through similar experiences themselves.

Before I knew it, I had signed up for Point to Point, and was going to have to figure out how to RUN from Baltimore to Key West. Cancer is still the toughest thing I have overcome, but this experience ended up being a very close second! The first few days, it was so hard to get through ten miles, but with Ian, Brock, and a bunch of other new friends – no, family – by my side, I managed to tick them off one by one.

I also managed, for the first time, to truly TALK about my experience with cancer. My Point to Point teammates were willing to put their own problems and priorities aside and just listen to me. Each of them had their own story, and in sharing theirs, they helped me be able to share mine, knowing I wouldn’t be judged or questioned or stigmatized or forgotten.

My life was changed forever at 23 when I learned I had cancer. And it was changed again at 26 when I came to UCF.

I know you have made a donation to UCF at some point, so in some way, you are part of my story. Thank you for giving, so that this organization and these people were here when I needed them. I know it sounds cheesy, but you have made all the difference.

As you could probably tell from earlier in my story, I don’t like to ask people for help. But I’m going out of my comfort zone to ask you to contribute again this year to the Ulman Cancer Fund. I know, without a doubt, that your support – financial and moral – will help someone else like me regain their body and their confidence after cancer.

Cancer changes lives…so do you.

Sincerely,

Amanda Weaver

The Marquarts and the Woods – BE Committed

Jim and Keri

Be Committed. The meaning ascribed to these two words can vary a great deal from person to person. In times when health and circumstances are beyond one’s control – as is often the case for young adults experiencing cancer – we are inspired by those who take these words seriously. They look beyond themselves, they get comfortable with discomfort, and they just keep showing up.

At the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, we are honored and humbled to partner with these types of people every day. Sometimes we even get to interact with an entire community of truly committed people – this is the case in a small town, three hours away from UCF headquarters, in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Each fall for the past four years, a small group of UCF staff has piled into the car and made the trek up Route 83, gone over the river and through the woods, and arrived at the “Back Mountain” of Luzerne County, PA – more specifically, at the home of Jim and Keri Wood for Screw Cancer Brew Hope PA.

It all started because of the Woods’ natural inclination as 

Marjorie and Brian

helpers. This bent prompted them, in 2013, to introduce long-time friend Olivia Marquart – a recent college graduate newly diagnosed with synovial sarcoma – and her family to Brian Satola, Chief Operating Officer at UCF, where Jim serves on the Board of Directors. The relationship, and ultimately, the community that developed as a result of this introduction, soon made the distance between the Back Mountain and Baltimore seem inconsequential.

The Woods have always been committed to having a good time, hosting a big end-of-summer party at their home each year. Upon Olivia’s diagnosis, they saw a need and felt compelled to leverage this event into something more meaningful. They partnered with Olivia’s mother, Marjorie, and sister and brother-in-law, Samantha and Jamie, and committed to turning the lighthearted party into Screw Cancer Brew Hope PA: an awareness-building opportunity and fundraiser for UCF.

 

Samantha on Key 2 Keys

Both the extent and impact of this commitment are impossible to quantify. For four years in a row, this small group and their extended families and friends have spent countless hours on event planning and execution – spreading the word across the neighboring towns, collecting donations for silent auction items, negotiating with vendors, setting up and tearing down decorations – all toward the goals of teaching their local community to be ambassadors of the knowledge that young adults are not immune from cancer, and giving that community a tangible way to support Olivia and family throughout her ups and downs with cancer.

Through their commitment to Screw Cancer Brew Hope, the Marquarts and Woods have come together to donate and raise more than $175,000 for the Ulman Cancer Fund. Their commitment to building relationships has decreased the alienation Olivia has felt, and created stronger connections throughout their community. It has enabled the Ulman

 

Cancer Fund to expand the programs through which we fulfill our mission of creating communities of support for young adults, and their families, facing cancer.

Marjorie, Olivia, and Keri

Both Olivia and Samantha have been able to extend their communities beyond the Back Mountain through UCF’s Key to Keys program. Each sister has participated in the experience, driving or bicycling to Key West with a group of strangers who, over eight days and 1,200 miles, become family. They have created cherished memories of riding into Key West and sharing dedications with their teams, which empower them when recalled on tough days. Through Key to Keys, they have each committed to supporting their newfound friends, and have received invaluable companionship and encouragement back in return.

Margaret Mead is often quoted as having said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” At UCF, we are so grateful for this small group of committed people, and we have no doubt that they will change the world for countless young adults well into the future.

 

Donate to Be Day https://tinyurl.com/y8btb4mz

Cristal’s Story – BE Courageous

Meet Cristal! Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Cristal is a spunky, resilient and big-hearted, daughter, sister, student and inspiration to many.

Cristal’s cancer story began during a college semester abroad in Spain. In the middle of her experience, she began to experience intense pain in her abdomen. She found a local doctor who told her that she needed to go home immediately. When she returned home, Cristal learned she had stage 3 Ewing Sarcoma – a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer. She was pulled away from her peer group, and put through an aggressive treatment that included 17 rounds of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of daily radiation, a major tumor debulking surgery and a lot of time spent in the hospital due to cancer treatment and surgical complications such as a bowel obstruction. It was a quick and scary switch from frolicking the streets of Salamanca, Spain to spending time in a hospital bed fighting for her life.

Throughout this entire process, Cristal never lost sight of her goal of graduating. With an incredible amount of resilience and determination, along with the support of her university, family and friends, she returned to school and graduated a year later, becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree!

Once she was given a clean bill of health, Cristal became determined to reclaim her body after her Cancer experience. She found out about UCF’s Cancer to 5K program – a free 12-week training program for cancer survivors.  Given the opportunity to meet and train with other survivors, Cristal flourished and showed the world that she not only kicked cancer’s butt, but could also run a 5K!

Upon crossing the finish line, Cristal met a member of the UCF staff who suggested she look into the 4K for Cancer program and bike across the country. She initially thought this was inconceivable, but by that June, Cristal had fundraised more than $4,500 for the Ulman Cancer Fund, was well-trained, and ready to start her journey.  With 18 strangers, she hit the road – on her bike – heading out across the United States to support other young adults with cancer.

Cristal’s 4K journey was not an easy one, but it was undoubtedly incredible. She struggled in the beginning, learning how to push her body in a manageable way and how to make friends with these strangers who didn’t know her story yet. Having been isolated from friends and classmates during the two years she was in treatment, Cristal had become apprehensive about interacting with people in her own age group. Her 4K team became a supportive community that allowed Cristal to, in her own words, “catch up” with her peers.

Cristal was tested by times of frustration and challenge, but when asked why she was biking across the country, she would always say the same thing; to show other young adults with cancer that something like this is possible. You can survive and you can take your life back.

Throughout those 70 days, Cristal grew in a multitude of ways. She became an incredibly strong rider. She learned that she had to be patient with her body, but that she could in fact do this. She became one of the fastest riders on the team. She even gained the nickname “Hill Doctor” due to her awesome ability to conquer steep hills at impressive speeds. Even more incredible, however, was how Cristal changed as a person. She began opening up about her story and her struggles in ways she hadn’t done before.

While riding on the long roads of Idaho or Nebraska she would tell her teammates about what she went through and the people she met in the hospital and support groups, who inspired her to fight back against cancer. Each day, she dedicated her ride to a long list of people, including those who had fought cancer, were still fighting, or who had lost their battle. She created lasting bonds with her team, who supported and leaned on each other every second of their journey. One day of the ride, each member of the team surprised Cristal by dedicating their day to her.

While on the 4K, Cristal celebrated one year of being cancer free – her “Cancer-versary” as she called it. It is a testament to her persistence and strength that she was conquering this journey less than a year out of treatment. Throughout the 70 days of the 4K for Cancer, Cristal laughed and cried, fixed flat tires, and danced her way up hills.  On August 12th, she rode across the Golden Gate Bridge next to 18 of her best friends, officially completing her 4,000 mile journey from coast to coast.

The programs of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults helped Cristal to reboot her life after cancer, changing her perspective and connecting her with a community of support that became her family.

Donate to Be Day https://tinyurl.com/y8btb4mz

Betsy’s Story – BE Human

For twenty years, volunteers have been critical to UCF’s ability to carry out our mission. Our committed volunteers do yardwork or prepare meals for patients we serve, run alongside cancer survivors completing their first 5K race, plan fundraising events – really, they do whatever it takes to ensure that we continue to move closer and closer to a world where no young adult faces cancer alone!

Betsy Serp has become a one-of-a-kind volunteer whose friends invited her to serve alongside them at the UCF Races several years ago. After seeing cancer survivors cross the finish line and achieve feats they didn’t think possible, Betsy was hooked! She now sacrifices her retirement leisure time and shares her top-notch project management skills to help us as a volunteer Program Coordinator for the UCF House.

Betsy is no stranger to the housing industry; she worked in the mortgage business for many years, and collaborates with her husband, Ed, on his weekend home improvement business.  So when Betsy told us that she had decided to take early retirement and would have some free time, we quickly asked her to contribute some of that time toward the UCF House!

In her volunteer role, Betsy spends the equivalent of 1-2 days per week making sure planning and construction progress smoothly. She manages communication between our general contractor, our interior designer (UCF Founder Diana Ulman), individuals and companies who have donated items for the house, and UCF full-time staff. Betsy’s work will ensure that we meet requirements set by the Maryland Historic Trust and that the project qualifies for LEED certification.

Betsy gives so generously of her time because she is inspired by the vision of young adults having a place to live alongside new friends who are going through something similar. She is confident that the UCF House will not only be a physical structure, but that it will be the framework around a strong support system for everybody who walks through its doors – patients, family, friends, and community members.

Betsy – from all of us at UCF, thank you for all you do!

Josh’s Story

Josh’s Story

Josh Minton thought he was invincible. A 27-year-old Army Captain in peak physical condition, Josh had already been through what he thought would be the biggest challenges of his life – four years at West Point and a tour of duty in Afghanistan as a Field Artillery Officer – and he survived both with aplomb. Engaged to be married, with a clear path forward in the Army, Josh planned confidently for his future.

While training at Fort Still in Oklahoma, Josh got checked out for what he thought must be a kidney stone. To his great surprise, he instead received a diagnosis of an incurable form of neuroendocrine cancer. He shipped off to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, leaving behind his comrades and far from his roots in Ohio. He withdrew from the world and separated from his fiancée, in denial about his new reality.

Over the next six months of chemo and self-imposed isolation, Josh processed his situation and little by little began to shift his perspective. He learned about the young adult support group at Walter Reed, run by UCF Patient Navigator Meg Fitzgibbons, and decided to give it a try. He found the group to be dynamic and flexible, and enjoyed sharing awkward moments of hilarity as well as poignant and sad reflections with his new peers.

 

Josh now reflects that the emotional challenge he continues to face is harder than any physical or tactical task he has encountered. Getting support from people at UCF and Walter Reed who could truly empathize with him, Josh – ever stubborn – rallied and decided to give support to others. He has shepherded fellow officers and enlisted through their cancer experiences, developing relationships he knew would end in heartbreak, but having the courage to do it anyway. He has completed physical feats – a half marathon, a60-mile walk, and UCF’s Key to Keys – to keep perspective, focus on the positive, and honor those who have gone before him. He has taught high school students how to be there for their friends who have cancer or chronic illnesses, and addressed elected officials at a Cancer Moonshot summit.

His body may not be invincible, but his spirit surely is. Josh, we salute you!

Donate to Be Day https://tinyurl.com/y8btb4mz

MJ’s Story

MJ’s Story

Meet the newest member of UCF’s Body of Young Adult Advisors (BOYAA): Marissa Hayes, also known as MJ.  Through her BOYAA service, MJ is poised to be the epitome of one of our organizational pillars: giving and getting support. Coming to BOYAA as the recipient of its 2017 scholarship, she quickly came to appreciate the community BOYAA creates and signed on to help raise funds to award future scholarships, and to give hope to other young adult survivors by sharing her story.

The fourth of seven siblings, MJ has, by necessity, learned to fend for herself. When she experienced consistent shoulder pain that she couldn’t chalk up to wakeboarding or perfecting her round-off/back handspring/back tuck combo, she persisted in seeking an answer after being told by several practitioners that she just needed physical therapy. While finally meeting with an orthopaedic cancer specialist, she received the news – alone, at 18 – that she had Ewing sarcoma.

MJ moved from Oregon, where she was enrolled at Oregon State University, to San Francisco, to seek treatment. She endured a year of chemotherapy and radiation, with some harsh side effects. Choosing this path of treatment instead of surgery, however, enabled MJ to continue as a Formula 3 driver – ultimately ranking 8th out of 40 in her nation-wide class!

As is UCF tradition, MJ has turned her frustrations into action. Feeling out of place in the pediatric hospital, she got involved with its AYA youth advisory council and social group. Inspired by a few of her caregivers, MJ has set her sights on becoming an acute care pediatric nurse practitioner – a position that will enable her to work specifically with the AYA population. Bolstered by the UCF scholarship, MJ is now enrolled in an 18-month program at theJohns Hopkins School of Nursing. Strengthened by the support she is currently getting from UCF, there’s no telling how much support she will ultimately give to others.

20 Years of Changing Lives

Dear Friends & Supporters,

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

This sentiment guided our Key to Keys team as they rode their bikes to Florida this April, and it represents the path we follow as an organization. Together with far more than 100,000 people who have supported the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults in some way over the past two decades, you have made great strides in surrounding young adults and their loved ones, impacted by cancer, with an affirming and welcoming community.

Thank you for the contributions you have made – of your time, spirit, and finances. The ripple effect we have collectively created has reached far and wide, and thanks to you, countless young adults have not had to face cancer alone.

We couldn’t be more excited about reaching our twentieth anniversary this fall, and we hope you will pause with us to celebrate, reflect, and recommit. Please save the dates on the below calendar, and join us to go together into the next twenty years.

Cancer changes lives… SO DO YOU!

Sincerely,


Brock Yetso

 


Capital Campaign Update

About four years ago, we started to dream about the next big idea for UCF – a place for young adults to stay, while receiving treatment, that is affordable, community-focused, and most importantly – meets them where they are as young adults. Countless focus groups, donor visits, and pre-construction meetings later, the UCF House is becoming a reality! The renovation is underway and we can’t thank you enough for making this ambitious project happen.

Along the way, we have faced tough challenges but even greater opportunities. The initial plan was to renovate three rowhouses, which, as you know, were in rough shape. We set our capital campaign goal of $3 Million and announced it to the UCF community, and we were off! Several months later, thanks to some good investigative work to locate an out-of-town owner and the generosity of a good friend, we were able to DOUBLE the size of the project to six rowhouses!

Now facing both the challenge of a higher project cost and the opportunity to welcome even more partners in philanthropy, we are thrilled to announce an increase of our capital campaign goal to $4 Million.  Please join us to help spread the word about the UCF House and our other important campaign priorities!


20 Years Strong

As we continue to celebrate our 20th Anniversary stay tuned to our website and social media accounts for upcoming events and post highlighting members of our community.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ulmancancerfund

Instagram: www.instagram.com/ulmancancerfund 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ulmancancerfnd

Snapchat: @ ulmancancerfund

By |August 28th, 2017|News|0 Comments

Are you a GameChanger?

Are you, or is someone you know, a young professional in the Baltimore area who’s doing great things inside and outside of the office? GameChangers are young professionals going above and beyond. They’re successful at work, committed to bettering their communities, and are leaders among their peers. Each fall, a committee reviews applications and nominations to select the most deserving young professionals and recognizes them for their efforts by declaring them GameChangers. GameChangers agree to support UCF’s mission by serving the young adult cancer community and raising funds ($3,000+) to support vital free programs for young adults, and their loved ones, impacted by cancer. The program begins in October of 2017 when the selected GameChangers begin a curriculum designed to serve the young adult cancer community while engaging in valuable personal and professional development. The curriculum includes meaningful volunteer opportunities, education on the young adult cancer fight, and benefits related to professional growth, networking, and tickets to UCF events. The program culminates with the with formal recognition at UCF’s annual Blue Jeans {& Bowties} Ball in early February, 2018 where the GameChangers will be celebrated for their commitment and accomplishments. After completing the program, GameChangers are invited to join UCF’s Body of Young Adult Advisors (BOYAA) where they will receive a complimentary Ambassador membership for the 2017-2018 year. GameChangers are also encouraged to continue their engagement by nominating and reviewing applicants for the following year.

Applications close Sept 1. Learn more and apply at ulmanfund.org/gamechangers 

Benefits

•A platform to assist young adults and their families who have been impacted by cancer

• Recognition in the Baltimore community as a young professional of note in business and philanthropy

• Networking opportunities with young professionals, Ulman Cancer Fund Board of Directors, and Ulman Cancer Fund partner organizations

• Featured in local and social media such as LinkedIn, newspapers, community websites, and magazines

• Body of Young Adult Advisors Ambassador Membership for 2017- 2018

• Award ceremony at Blue Jeans {& Bowties} Ball with over 800 people in attendance and 2 complimentary tickets

• 1 complimentary ticket to Screw Cancer Brew Hope (Fall, 2017), hosted by BOYAA

• Photo and bio on GameChangers Website

• GameChangers “Badge” and text for inclusion on LinkedIn profile

• Leather UCF folio

• Under Armour UCF backpack

• Under Armour UCF jacket

• GameChangers lapel pin

 

Curriculum Mandatory:

• Attend GameChangers orientation and kickoff happy hour

• Plan and host a Bone Marrow drive with your cohort

• Adopt a family for the UCF gift drive with your cohort

• Prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals to UCF patients and families

• Attend a hospital tour with a UCF Patient Navigator

• Attend the 2018 Blue Jeans {& Bowties} Ball and Honoree Reception

• Meet $3,000 fundraising minimum

Additional opportunities:

• Host a Lunch & Learn at your company. UCF will visit for 30 minutes to an hour to meet with your colleagues and talk about UCF’s services and ways to get involved

• Attend monthly BOYAA meetings (Third Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm at the UCF Headquarters)

• Attend a UCF Board of Directors social

• UCF Board of Directors mentorship

• UCF Board of Directors mentorship opportunity

• Attend Screw Cancer Brew Hope (Fall, 2017)

 

Questions? Contact GameChangers@UlmanFund.org or 410-964-0202 x117

4K Update: Halfway There!

 

Every Mile Matters

It was just about a month ago that our 4K for Cancer teams began cycling and running across the country. We’re excited to keep you updated as our riders and runners approach the halfway point of their journeys!

It is extremely powerful to see the relationships that they have formed in a just a few short weeks together. Together as a team, they have ensured that Every Mile Matters. 

To date, the 4K for Cancer has:

  • Awarded 8 scholarships to young adults impacted by cancer
  • Visited 10 cancer centers to provide support to those in treatment
  • Delivered 140 chemo care bags to patients
  • Covered 15,076 collective miles
  • Raised over $730,093 for the young adult cancer fight!

Follow the teams through an interactive map on their web pages and access all their mail drop locations!

Baltimore Businesses Pledge to Cycle for Young Adults Fighting Cancer

MedStar Health Systems, M&T Bank, Merritt Clubs, Mindgrub, Allegis Global Solutions, and Shapiro commit to spinning for a cause during the first annual Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults Cycle to Inspire.

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF) has created an exciting opportunity for Baltimore businesses to join the fight against young adult cancer, while strengthening internal teams, encouraging corporate wellness, and broadening networks. On Friday, September 15th UCF will host Cycle to Inspire, a half-day team spinathon at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore-based organizations create teams of 10 employees who will be challenged to cycle for one of multiple 45-minute spin session throughout the day led by some of Baltimore’s best spin instructors. Teams will compete to win the ‘Every Mile Matters’ award for most miles covered and the ‘Every Dollar Counts’ award for the most money raised.

The proceeds from Cycle to Inspire will help to expand UCF’s young adult cancer support services by creating a patient navigation program within the MedStar Health System in Baltimore. This new program will provide essential resources and a community of support to young adult cancer patients undergoing treatment at MedStar institutions. This service complements existing programs UCF offers at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, Children’s National Medical Center, and the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“We are excited to offer an opportunity for Baltimore-based businesses and organizations to get involved with our organization and have the ability to directly support services for young adults facing cancer diagnoses, and their loved ones, in the Baltimore area, said Brian Satola, COO at the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. “We have great organizations in MedStar, M&T Bank, Merritt, Mindgrub, and Allegis Global Solutions already committed and look forward to bringing additional companies and organizations on board.”

“The goals of the Ulman Cancer Fund are our goals too,” said Linda Rogers, Vice President of Oncology for the Baltimore Region of MedStar Health. “Raising funds, awareness, and support for the specific needs of young people with cancer is something we can all embrace. Here’s an opportunity to join forces with this incredible and compassionate organization, one we’ve long respected that directly benefits patients. We are grateful for the partnership and excited for the opportunity to participate in what is sure to be a fun way to promote survivorship and the fight against cancer.”

Team participation and sponsorship opportunities for Cycle to Inspire are available. For more information on how you can get engaged and serve young adults facing cancer, visit http://ulmanfund.org/cycletoinspire.