National Social Workers Month! An Interview with: Elizabeth Saylor, MSW & Majbritt Jensen, LCSW-C

An Interview with:

 

Elizabeth Saylor, MSW

Elizabeth Saylor, MSW, is the Ulman Fund Young Adult Patient Navigator at University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC).

 

Majbritt Jensen, LCSW-C

Majbritt Jensen LCSW-C is the Clinical Social Worker for the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC).
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Elizabeth (Class of 2002) and Majbritt (Class of 2000) are pictured here in front of their alma mater, the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

 

Why did you want to become a social worker (and work with young adults impacted by cancer)?

 

Majbritt: I love to be of service and to help. Hearing the story of a person’s life and witnessing the love shared between patients and their families enriches me daily. Oncology social work is a privilege. Oncology social workers are with people when their entire world changes the second the doctor says, “You have cancer.” Being part of that journey is an honor. To help ease the burden of having a diagnosis in any small way is a blessing and as a social worker I can help do that. I love connecting patients to resources like the Ulman Fund, or LLS, having  food sent to a patient’s home to help ease the stress on the caregiver, providing support groups and my favorite part is just being present and being a source of support during such a difficult time.

 

Elizabeth: Prior to social work I studied psychology.  These academic disciplines are closely related but social work puts a real emphasis on working from people’s strengths, thinking about how an individual’s environment shapes their behavior, and that ultimately, human beings know what is best for their own growth and healing.  At the time I was applying to graduate school I was a special educator in the Baltimore City Public School System.  I saw how simply diagnosing and labeling kids didn’t achieve much change and really cheated children out of a chance to thrive.  I also witnessed the potential for success in helping communities act on the school, neighborhood and municipal systems in which they lived.  The social justice aspect of social work really appeals to me. The social workers who served on  the Special Education team encouraged me to apply to UMB, and I am so glad I did!

Growing up I knew  two social workers because I was their patient during my own cancer experience.  The first was marginal in her efforts to establish rapport with me and my parents, and offered few helpful resources or suggestions.  This was unfortunate given the fact that she was stationed at a children’s hospital and could have made a huge difference in the lives of sick children, and one terrified and stressed-out 3rd grader.  The second was fantastic.  She was stationed at a large academic medical center where I received radiation. Working in an institution that was not at all geared towards children she sought creative and unique ways to make my experience easier.  She would play card and board games with me during the long wait times (imagine a waiting area filled with elderly, very ill cancer patients in wheel chairs and on stretchers) and strategized ways to ease my anxiety about being alone in the treatment room.  I am dating myself a bit here but she knew I loved Michael Jackson and so she secured a Walkman and a Thriller cassette tape that I could listen to.

 

What is the best part of your job as a social worker in the young adult oncology space?

 

Majbritt: The best part of my job as an oncology social worker is that I am reminded every day that things don’t matter, status doesn’t matter, all that matters is relationships and how much you have loved. Last year Elizabeth and I worked with a young man who passed away at age 24. He had a toddler, beautiful wife and devoted parents that stood by him through his long battle. Elizabeth and I went to his funeral service. Hundreds of people were there. In his short life that young man touched every person he met. When people stood up to talk about him, they talked about his kindness, and how much he loved his wife and son. At such a young age that young man left a mark on this world.

 

Elizabeth: Working with young adults who are living with cancer I witness daily the strength of the human spirit.  I mean this in the most genuine way.  I had cancer as a child.  It was not fun and I am sure dreadful for my parents.  But I didn’t have the responsibility the patients I work with have.  I had no choice – someone always made sure I got to the hospital.

People are remarkable and young adults especially.  Dealing with cancer at any age is challenging but managing to get out of bed and show up for chemotherapy when you are trying to finish school, or start a new job, or get used to living with your parents again because you are too sick to live alone, or figure out how to comfort your young children who are scared you are going to die, or explain to a new partner why you need to cancel a date, or figure out how to pay your car bill with your limited disability check, now that takes real guts. Doing all of this while your friends are moving forward with the “normal” young adults stuff is just plain courageous.

 

What piece of advice would you give anyone interested in become a social worker?

 

Majbritt: Always be present. You will have 100 things you will need to be doing but when you are with a patient or their loved one, be present. Listen. Be with them in that moment.

 

Elizabeth: Social work is a wonderful profession and the MSW is a versatile, practical advanced degree.  If you enjoy interacting with and learning from other human beings this could be the right career path for you.  And I don’t just mean learning from the patients.  I learn from colleagues like Majbritt every day. Her training is much more clinically focused while I am more of a macro practitioner. Majbritt knows how to rapidly but sincerely build trust with families that are about to go through transplant and this is a real skill.  

 

If you believe that the world- your country, city, neighborhood, block, or HOSPITAL! -can be a much better place, especially for those of us with the least resources, then I encourage you to pursue a career in social work.

National Social Workers Month! An Interview with: Alexandra Gubin, LCSW

An Interview with:

Alexandra Gubin, LCSW

Alexandra Gubin, LCSW, is the Ulman Fund Young Adult Patient Navigator at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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Why did you want to become a social worker (and work with young adults impacted by cancer)?

I’ve always been interested in human behavior as well as concerned with the greater social good. When considering a career in Social Work, the range of professional pursuits provided by a Social Work degree, from direct practice to policy level work intrigued me very much.

 

What is the best part of your job as a social worker in the young adult oncology space?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is having the opportunity to interact and support patients and families navigating cancer treatment. The strength and resilience exuded by patients/families during critical and often traumatic points in their lives is life-affirming to me.

 

What piece of advice would you give anyone interested in become a social worker?

For those contemplating becoming a social worker, it is important to consider an openness to change and to the possibility of new experiences. A Social Work degree can take you many places!

 

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.

 

National Social Workers Month! An Interview with: Meghan Fitzgibbons, MSW, LGSW

March is National Social Workers Month!

 

Social workers help people identify, problem solve, and cope with challenges that they may face in their everyday lives. Typically, social workers help identify people and communities in need of assistance, assess needs and challenges of their clients, help clients adjust to life challenges (such as a cancer diagnosis or a family crisis), research and refer to specific resources to improve their client’s well-being, and serve as advocate for their clients and their needs. Clinically licensed social workers also provide psychotherapy services, and diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Social can be employed in a variety of settings such as hospitals, schools, human service agencies, and private practices.

 

At the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, three of our Young Adult Patient Navigators have a social work background – Meghan Fitzgibbons, Alexandra Gubin, and Elizabeth Saylor. Our Young Adult Patient Navigators also work closely with other social workers within the hospital and community to support the young adult cancer population.

 

In honor of National Social Workers Month, we will be posting some interviews with our very own Patient Navigators as well as partner social workers at institutions about why they chose social work, what they love most, and advice for others pursuing a social work career.

 

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults wants to extend a sincere THANK YOU and THUMBS UP to all the social workers out there…especially those who work tirelessly to serve young adults impacted by cancer.

 

An Interview with:

 

Meghan Fitzgibbons MSW, LGSW

Meghan Fitzgibbons, MSW, LGSW is the Ulman Fund Young Adult Patient Navigator at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s John P. Murtha Cancer Center.  

 

meghan

 

Why did you want to become a social worker (and work with young adults impacted by cancer)?

Having interned and then worked at the Department of Social Services in Charlottesville, VA and then having a social worker mentor and co-worker at Massachusetts General Hospital, becoming a social worker was sort of always on the table.  When I saw how versatile the role could be and how many different environments social workers could thrive in (particularly the hospital setting), I was sold.  I think that it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer these days – whether personally, or via a family member, friend, co-worker, etc.  When I started to learn about the unique challenges facing young adults with cancer, I was quickly drawn to this group of people and wanted to help improve their experiences.

 

What is the best part of your job as a social worker in the young adult oncology space?

 

It’s such an honor to be with people from the first day or week of diagnosis to their last day of treatment, or their last day on earth.  My favorite part of this job is the reward and privilege of witnessing and supporting patients and families during some of their toughest times, where they can’t even see it sometimes, but there is so much grace, faith, hope and humility all around me.

 

What piece of advice would you give anyone interested in become a social worker? 

 

Do it!  Social work has the potential to be one of the most rewarding careers.  Try to figure out the population and environment that are right for you because there is definitely something for everyone. 

 

Ulman Cancer Fund to Build First-of-its-Kind House in East Baltimore

Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults to build first-of-its-kind house in East Baltimore for young adult cancer patients and families
House announcement accompanied by launch of a $3 Million Capital Campaign


BALTIMORE, MD – February 3, 2016Among an audience of more than 700 supporters, patients and corporate partners at the organization’s annual Blue Jeans & Bowties Ball, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF) announced the official launch of a $3 Million Capital Campaign and the organization’s biggest project to date – building The UCF House. The Campaign is the most ambitious fundraising initiative in the Ulman Cancer Fund’s 18-year history and includes a priority to serve an unmet need of patients in the community, providing free housing for young adult cancer patients and their families while receiving treatment in Baltimore.

“Young adult patients age out of many other facilities or don’t find critical peer support at non-age specific facilities. With treatment protocols that require them to stay near hospitals for long periods of time, housing can be crippling financially and prevents some young adults from receiving treatment at top-notch Baltimore hospitals,” said Brock Yetso, President & CEO of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. “Our organization exists to remove barriers and drive change – for years we’ve wanted to make this home away from home for young adult cancer patients and their families a reality, and now it is becoming one.”

Through a strategic collaboration with East Baltimore Development, Inc. (EBDI) UCF was able to acquire four attached row homes on East Madison Street, just north of the Johns Hopkins Hospital campus. “We’ve been welcomed into the community by EBDI and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the neighborhood’s transformation,” said Yetso.  UCF also has the support of District 45 legislators, Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden and Delegate Cory V. McCray, who are sponsoring a bond bill requesting funds for the project.  “Fostering relationships between the public and private sectors is key to addressing challenges in our city, and I am encouraged and inspired by UCF’s interest in helping to strengthen our community,” commented Delegate McCray.

Visioning sessions with medical professionals, patients, and caregivers, and planning meetings with architects and builders led to the design of a unique, comfortable, supportive, and empowering space that will include eight family suites, a gym/wellness space, a relaxation space, resource library, outdoor space in the forms of a backyard and a rooftop deck.  The UCF House will be conveniently located within blocks of Johns Hopkins and a short distance to other downtown Baltimore cancer centers.

Dr. Kenneth Cooke, Director of Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, works closely with young adult cancer patients and is supportive of UCF’s efforts to open The UCF House.  “Young adults fighting cancer face real challenges when it comes to finding affordable housing during treatment, in particular when they have to stay within a few miles of the hospital for 100 days after a bone marrow transplant.  The UCF House will meet this need and offer a place where young adults can find much needed peer support and a sense of community.”

The House will cost approximately $1 Million to build and open, and $200,000 to operate each year. UCF has embarked on a Capital Campaign to raise $3 Million with three priorities – to build the House and raise funds to operate it for the first three years, grow the organization’s endowment, and enhance existing programming for young adults and families impacted by cancer.

At the time of this announcement, the organization has reached two-thirds of the campaign goal during a “quiet phase” thanks to generous lead gifts from The Kirk Family Foundation, The Geaton and JoAnn DeCesaris Foundation, The Bradley T. MacDonald Family Foundation, and The Family of Jamie L. Roberts. Every UCF staff member has made a personal contribution to the Campaign, with total staff giving exceeding $100,000.  At the event Saturday night, when the Campaign was officially launched, an inspired audience made gifts totaling over $100,000 towards the Campaign.  The event raised well over $300,000 in proceeds.

The UCF House is expected to break ground before the close of the first quarter with a projected completion date before the end of the year.  The Capital Campaign is now public and every dollar donated will help change a life. About her family’s gift, Kellie MacDonald shared, “As a family that has personally been impacted by cancer and benefited from the great work of the Ulman Cancer Fund, we’re thrilled to support this Campaign and The UCF House.  We have a rare opportunity to be involved in a labor of love to improve our city and change the face of cancer care for young adults in Maryland. Together we can make a difference now, and I encourage others to consider joining us as we bring support and hope to patients and families fighting cancer here in Baltimore.”

To learn more about how you can make an impact, please visit www.ulmancancerfund.org/theucfhouse or contact UCF’s Development Director, Shara Boonshaft, at (410) 964-0202 x112 or shara@ulmanfund.org.

My Stanford Prison Experiment While Waiting in Line for ‘Star Wars’

The scene reminded me of the 1971 experiment on authority which suggested why Nazis conformed, only instead of cells with prisoners there was an IMAX movie theater full of Star Wars nerds.

My numbered wristband revealed when I could enter the IMAX theater at the National Air and Space Museum the night Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened. I would be the 362nd nerd in the theater because I arrived only 90 minutes before the showing instead of 630 minutes like the luckiest nerd, Number 1.

Screw this. I cut through the pack, weaving between ropes, to stand with my friend Griffin who had arrived 150 minutes early.

“Do not cut in line or stand out of order!” a uniformed man who was standing outside the roped area screamed to the moviegoers. “You will enter the theater single-file! We will check your wristband! If you are out of order we will remove you! There will be no saving seats!”

Nerds began chattering, asking other nerds “What number are you?” to ensure they lined properly. When nerds asked about my number, I said, “I’m just standing with my friend,” and pocketed my right hand.

“Good luck, I hope you make it,” nerds said patting me on the back.

The line began moving and solemn nerds shuffled towards the leader, the man checking wristbands, in front of the theater. I quickly considered what to say to that man justifying my disorder in as few words as possible. My confidence grew, remembering that I was young and strong and I teach classes on how to write in plain language for my profession.

“This is wrong,” Griffin said. “Let me handle this.”

I looked at my livid friend, Number 158, who always supports social justice and is never afraid to speak up. “Ok. Thanks for sticking up for me,” I said.

Terror overtook me when just eight nerds stood between us and Wristband Checker. “150,” he yelled and I searched for a hidden tunnel under my feet, a ram to sacrifice, or anything else to help me escape.

The line shortened even more and I could see three nerds standing outside the roped area next to a burly security guard. They were caught. Before I could turn back, Wristband Checker yelled “158.”

Griffin, animated and high-pitched, started in rapid fire. “My friend goes in with me he had cancer twice and couldn’t stand in line with me that long his hip bone was removed due to childhood cancer!”

Wristband Checker, who didn’t look in our eyes and saw us only as numbers, grabbed my arm and said, “362. . . to the side! You can’t enter yet. Wait until you are called.”

“But he wouldn’t have been able to stand with me for two and a half hours!” Griffin fought back.

“I can’t let him in.”

“I’m sorry, I tried!” Number 158 said to me, walking away.

I drooped and watched as hundreds of other nerds entered, taking the best seats. The security guard looked down at the two-inch lift in the sole of my left shoe, which I need to walk after cancer left that leg shorter. He said in a voice softer than I had expected, “You should have taken the disabled entrance. There’s a special entrance upstairs for you people. I wish you took the disabled entrance.”

A young woman joined us segregated nerds. “That’s my fiancé!” she said, looking towards a young man walking away and miming something like, “I’ll come for you later, I promise.”

She was Number 410 and he was Number 279. “You are going to split up an engaged couple?” she said almost in tears.

“You were out of line,” Wristband Checker said, his focus already having moved on to Number 280’s wristband.

“Nothing he can do. He has to follow orders,” the guard told her.

“Get those people back!” Wristband Checker instructed the guard, pointing to us. “They’re too close to the ropes.”

We retreated from the ropes and from the security guard who had a gun, or maybe a light saber? I suddenly forgot where and who I was.

Twice the guard asked me, “Who are you again?”

It was easy for him to forget amid the chaos we marching nerds caused. “I’m Number 362,” I said.

“I told you you should’ve taken the disabled entrance,” he said again.

After Number 361 entered, the guard stopped Wristband Checker. “I got Number 362 here!” he said, sweeping me into the dark theater as if it were a hidden cellar.

That man saw my humanity and I won’t forget him.

I followed the other nerds down the hallway and up stairs towards empty seats when I spotted Griffin in the middle of the fourth row, a great location that allowed the 85-foot-wide screen to occupy her entire visual field. “Hey!” I said.

“Hey you made it, thank God! I even saved a seat for you.”

I didn’t ask how she did it. I sat beside Griffin and eyed my right wrist. For years hospital wristbands branded me a “cancer patient,” and now I was branded a “lesser nerd.” Rage began bubbling.

Then I beat the authoritarian Wristband Checker by forgetting he exists when the screen illuminated my life for two and a half hours with bastard children and cute robots. I felt for the end of the wristband inside the loop and pinched it with my thumb and the knuckle of my forefinger. In one yank I ripped it apart and thought, as I did after finishing treatment for both my first and second cancers, never again . . . never again.

Author: Benjamin Rubenstein
This originally published on The Huffington Post. Benjamin Rubenstein is the author of the Cancer-Slaying Super Man books.
By |January 6th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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!

I Hope They Allow Crutches in Hell

Crutching is a great way to help injuries heal and bypass the lines at Disney World, and able-bodied individuals may treat crutchers with kindness. If you use crutches and think people are nice to you only because they consider you weak, and you must prove your strength until your death by always taking the challenging path through life, then follow these steps.

On the Washington, D.C., Metro, people will ask, “Do you want my seat?” Don’t let them snatch your completely irrational pride. You need to stand on one leg while holding crutches with one hand and the pole with the other as the train jerks and halts. There are several ways to respond to this offer:

The polite way: “No, thanks.”

The jerk way: “I’M NOT TAKING YOUR SEAT!”

The 16-year-old boy way: “I only sit for lap dances.”

When you reach the sidewalk you must speed-crutch so people think you’re crazy and intimidating instead of weak. Your loud crutch tips and long, quick, repetitive strides will make you sound like a galloping horse. You will quickly pass pedestrians walking in the same direction, though they will hear your approach for hundreds of steps. Here, you should politely say, “ON YOUR LEFT!” when you are 50 feet behind them, as a warning. For individuals who are hard of hearing, you should scream directly into their left ears when you are next to them. Since you won’t know who is and isn’t impaired, do both every time.

When you speed-crutch toward a pedestrian walking in the opposite direction as you, you will approach her as if you are LeBron James and she is Mary-Kate Olsen guarding you one-on-one with seven seconds left in game 7 of the NBA Finals. If nobody alters course then your momentum may kill the pedestrian. There are several ways you can prevent a catastrophe:

The polite way: Move.

The jerk way: Move and then stare her down. As you intersect, stop, pivot, and crutch backwards so you can continue glaring.

The 16-year-old boy way: Move and then politely say, “I LIKE YOUR TITS!”

When you flirt with a woman at the bar, she will wonder why you use crutches but she won’t ask outright. Explain your crutches immediately or else she will think you’re weak and from the bottom of the gene pool. You should lie. Say you suffered a broken tibia while successfully defending a stray Goldendoodle from a pack of coyotes while you were headed to defend your thesis for your doctorate in quantum physics. Drunks believe anything.

When coworkers ask why you take the stairs instead of the elevator, you should lie because that will be more acceptable than what you really think—that you are grateful for the physical abilities you have; that having to use crutches actually makes you stronger than everyone else.

Or, you can respond the 16-year-old boy way: “I don’t take elevators because I’ll lose mobile service . . . SNAPCHAT!”

 

BR

Benjamin Rubenstein writes and speaks about health and faking adulthood. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow his writing on cancerslayerblog.

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

Prom and Chemo: Embracing a New Normal

On New Year’s Eve 2014, we were welcoming the New Year at a mountain cabin in Vermont. Henry, his brother Luke, and our good friend John had spent the last day of the year on the slopes at Killington. After dinner and a make-shift dance party, we were collapsed around the living room talking about our resolutions and what lay ahead in 2015. Our friends who owned the cabin were moving back to the U.S. from Dubai. Luke would finish his first year of college in May. Henry was working out with a new coach to improve his tennis game for the spring season at his high school, and he was already looking forward to his summer trip to Africa.

Now, halfway through 2015, our friends have settled in Chicago. Luke has finished his first year of college. Henry, however, was admitted to Children’s National Medical Center on January 15th and has spent most of his nights in the hospital. At 16, Henry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Leukemia. He would go through three rounds of chemo and was admitted for bone marrow transplant (BMT) on April 19th. Due to complications, Henry remains on the BMT unit today. This is not the year Henry, or any of us, imagined.

When daily decisions affect the life of your child, it is easy to get so focused on the big picture that everything else fades away in importance. When Henry would question how he would handle his school work, I told him not to worry at all about that, “it just wasn’t that important.” When Henry would comment on his changing looks as his hair fell out and his lean body inflated with steroids, I would brush it aside assuring him he was perfect. I thought minimizing his concerns would help alleviate any anxiety. I was wrong.   As a teenager, his life was all about school, friends and tennis. In trying to minimize the impact Henry’s diagnosis and hospitalization had on Henry’s life, I was actually downgrading the very activities that made Henry’s life full; that made his life “normal.”

It has been over six months since Henry was diagnosed, and we have all learned so much about Leukemia, bone marrow transplant, and most importantly about ourselves. I cannot shield Henry from the negative impact that cancer has had and will continue to have on his life. We are learning to acknowledge the losses, grieve, and then find a way to move on. Cancer took away 11th grade, his tennis season, time with his girlfriend and friends at home, and his volunteer trip to Uganda. These are the pieces that made Henry’s life full. His life does not resemble the 2015 imagined on New Year’s Eve, but cancer has positive effects as well.

Once your life is affected by cancer, it is impossible to take anything for granted. Every day is a gift. Sharing a smile, conversation, or even a tear with a friend is special. The norms taken for granted become special moments. Henry may not be able to spend time with his friends at home, but he has made some lasting friendships with staff at the hospital. His nurses, doctors, and other patients make Henry’s world special. Allie, the Ulman Cancer Fund Patient Navigator at Children’s, stepped into Henry’s life the day after he was admitted, and she has held his hand, danced, laughed, listened and cried right along with Henry throughout his journey. Henry has not been able to pick up a book since January, but the outpouring of support from his high school counselor, teachers, and the CNMC Education Specialist, Rose, help him know he can do it and he will graduate with his high school class in June 2016. Henry cannot take his girlfriend on a date, but the time they have shared in the hospital has brought them closer. He told me one night that she made him feel handsome and loved. What a gift for a teenage boy!

These snippets of “normal,” time with his girlfriend or sharing a laugh with a friend, keep Henry going, help him stay strong. The Ulman Cancer Fund wanted Henry to experience that rite of passage, the Prom. Due to his compromised immune system, Henry could not be in a crowd, he could not eat a regular diet, and he would not have the energy for a night out. So, Ulman brought the Prom to Henry. On June 5th, 12 volunteers transformed a room in our house to a candlelit ballroom complete with dining room and dance floor. A tux, flowers (artificial, as he cannot be in contact with fresh plants), private chef and picture booth were sent in for the evening. Henry’s girlfriend arrived like a dream, as beautiful as ever. For that one night, Henry was just an 11th grader, dancing with his girlfriend at the Prom.

That night became all the more special when Henry was readmitted to the hospital two days later with complications from his transplant. He knows that any plans for summer will have to wait until next year and that his senior year will include many days in the hospital. Henry will continue to revel in the norm of teenage life. That “normal,” may not be what he expected as he looked ahead on new year’s eve, but it is a “normal,” Henry is learning to embrace.

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