UCF Milestone: A Victory in Annapolis

Dear UCF Supporter,

Parenthood is a lot of things. Being a parent is frustrating and hard and miraculous and exhausting and beautiful and thankless and joyful and overwhelming. It is everything–sometimes all at once. And yet, it is by far the most rewarding, important thing I do. Like many, I could probably write about my experience as a parent until it’s an entire novel. But today is not about me. It’s about all of the to-be parents who will now be able to experience what it means to have a child, even after going through cancer treatment.

 Around 10 years ago, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults first sat down with young adult cancer patients and their families in a hospital room to seek out the ways in which we could make this experience better. What resources were they lacking? What had they wished they had known prior to treatment? This is where I first learned about the dire need for fertility preservation–and the extreme financial burden that comes along with it. At that point, Maryland law did not require insurance companies to cover fertility preservation, which would only add to the high costs that come with a cancer treatment. During treatment, the high levels of radiation can lead to the destruction of fertile egg or sperm cells, severely limiting the chances for patients to have a child of their own. For a young adult who already has to spend their weekends in a hospital bed, instead of out in the world gaining life experience, this seemed like twisting the knife. We had to do something.

<<Read the full Press Release HERE>>

After countless hours of meeting with elected officials, medical experts, and many courageous individuals who fearlessly told their stories, we succeeded in getting our bill passed through state legislation. It mandates that medical insurance companies cover the cost of preserving a patient’s fertility. In other words, just because you had cancer does not mean you can’t also be a parent–a no brainer, in my opinion.

Ultimately, this bill is about choice. Not everyone knows for certain that they want to become a parent, especially if they’re only in their young twenties, for example. But imagine what it might feel like if the option is entirely stripped from you, or if it’s because you can’t afford it? No one should ever have to face this decision, and now–at least in Maryland–they won’t have to.

It seems fitting that only two days after Mother’s Day we are able to come together to officially cement this bill in legislation. There has been so much hard work, bravery, and thought that has gone into crafting this bill, and I am so proud of our team and everyone who has had some contribution into creating this milestone for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and the young adult cancer movement.


Brock Yetso,
President & CEO

Governor Hogan Signs Legislation Making Fertility Preservation Affordable for Young Adult Cancer Patients

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults spearheads passing of bill that will preserve the possibility of family for thousands of Marylanders

BALTIMORE – May 15, 2018 – The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF) is pleased to announce that Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation this morning requiring insurance coverage of fertility preservation services for cancer patients who face infertility from their treatments. Maryland is the third state in the country to provide this important benefit.

 

This law will require certain insurers, nonprofit health service plans, and HMOs to cover standard services like sperm banking and egg banking for at-risk young cancer patients.

 

 

“For many young cancer patients, loss of fertility is an unfortunate side effect of treatment. But the fact is, we have the medical means to preserve the possibility ofparenthood for these patients,” said Brock Yetso, president and CEO of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. “Parenthood is a fundamental life function that shouldn’t be eliminated due to disease or financial barriers. We’re proud to say that, in Maryland, fertility preservation is now an affordable reality for the majority of cancer patients.”

 

The financial cost associated with emergency fertility preservation is often too great for patients to manage, especially on top of other medical and treatment expenses. The cost is particularly high for young women, often exceeding $11,000 for egg retrieval and freezing.

 

According to a Maryland Health Care Commission Report, the costs for this benefit would be minimal – between $0.14-$0.24 per member per month – in added insurance costs.

 

“We strongly believe that having cancer should not preclude having children,” said Joyce Reinecke, Executive Director of the Alliance for Fertility Preservation. “Young cancer patients have already suffered enough, and they deserve the chance at a full and complete future after cancer. This coverage protects that chance.”

 

 

UCF advocated for this bill alongside the Alliance for Fertility Preservation, University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Shady Grove Fertility Clinic and countless patients and survivor advocates who testified at committee hearings supporting the bill. The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

 

About the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults is the oldest and largest non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization in the United States solely focused on the unique needs of young adult cancer patients. Founded in 1997, the Ulman Cancer Fund mission is to change lives by creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer. The organization works at both the local and national level to ensure all young adults (age 15-39) impacted by cancer have a voice and the necessary resources to thrive. For more information about Ulman Cancer Fund, visit: ulmanfund.org.

 

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Media Contact:

Molly Dressel

Abel Communications for Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults

molly@abelcommunications.com

443-986-1173 (cell)

443-961-4410 (office)

 

 

Your Voice Matters – A word from Brock, President & CEO

 

Giving remarks at 2012 Columbia’s Cure

The month of April marks the beginning of spring.  For so many of us, this time of the year represents transformation.  As we transition from winter’s cold and darkness to summer’s warmth and light, spring gives us a chance to reflect, renew, and celebrate.  For these reasons and many more – the beginning of baseball, hockey playoffs, spring break, family BBQ’s, late nights playing ball in the yard with my kids – April also represents an important milestone in my life and the life of the Ulman Cancer Fund.  

Seventeen years ago this month, I was fortunate to be hired as the first full-time Executive Director of this incredible organization.  At the time, we had very little to show in regards to programs and impact, but we were a community strong and united, ready to drive change.  They still tell me to this day there were other candidates vying for the job and I was selected from the crowd, but I’m fairly certain I was the only one who applied.  At any rate, I landed the job and got to work.

I was young, naïve, and clueless but I had one of the most powerful assets you can have when you start something new – a burning desire to succeed; a story to tell; and a commitment to helping others who have experienced the pain I endured – losing a mom to cancer.  This April is particularly unique because it also marks the 20th year anniversary for the Ulman Cancer Fund.  As I reflect on the transformation and development of both Ulman and myself, I’m reminded and humbled by the incredible people I’ve met along the way who have helped us get to this point together.

Testifying in Annapolis in February 2018 with cancer survivors sharing their voice

We’ve accomplished so many great things over the past two decades – way too long of a list to include in this blog.  One special milestone that has been unfolding over the past couple of months is the result of many year’s worth of hard work and countless, brave cancer survivors sharing their stories.  

On May 8th, our team will travel to Annapolis, MD to join Maryland Governor Larry Hogan for a ceremony where he will sign a piece of legislation into law that will preserve parenthood for thousands of cancer patients indefinitely.

When the law becomes effective on January 1, it will mandate insurance companies to pay for a patient ’s fertility preservation prior to them starting their cancer treatment, which can render them infertile. This will make Maryland the 3rd State in the country to offer this important benefit, providing momentum for others states to follow suit.

After two year’s worth of meetings and hearings with legislators educating them on the importance of this bill, I am reminded of a powerful lesson I’ve learned during my time at Ulman – Your Voice Matters! Meeting after meeting, hearing after hearing, I watched as brave young men and women opened their hearts to share stories of pain, anger, perseverance, and conviction.  The tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces took me back to a place I haven’t been in many years. It took me back to the day I was alone in an office as the first and only employee at Ulman. Although I was fueled by a different experience then, I recognize so many of the same emotions that motivate these survivors now. After my mom passed away, I found my voice immediately, and I feel lucky I was able to harness it through my life’s work at Ulman.  

And so as I celebrate my 17th year at Ulman and our 20th year as an organization this April, I’m continually reminded of the power of having a voice.

Sometimes you need to advocate for those unable, or not comfortable sharing, and many times you need to do it for yourself.  

We still have so much work to do, but I’m encouraged by the progress we’ve made thanks to thousands of young adults and families who have chosen to share their stories as vehicles for hope, inspiration, and change.

 

Giving remarks at 2018 Blue Jeans & Bowties Ball

Giving remarks at 2018 Fight Night Baltimore

Cancer changes lives… SO DO WE!

 

 

 

Brock Yetso
President & CEO
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults

 

“A Dash of Destiny” – an interview with Adam Van Bavel

Name: Adam Van Bavel

Age: 38

Occupation: New Business Development Manager

Give us a little background on your life and who you are (hobbies, professional life, etc.)  

I was born and raised in Baltimore. My wife and I just celebrated our 5 year anniversary. We’re parents of one (soon to be two) little boys. As a Baltimore native, when people ask where I went to school I always respond Calvert Hall despite the fact I went to the University of Maryland and love my Terps!

I was raised in Baltimore County where I now reside, but bought my first home in Baltimore City. There aren’t many cities in the US that rival the history, urban landscape and amenities, and culture of Baltimore. I’m an advocate for our City and the opportunity that exists for improvement.

During my 38 years of life, I’ve worked in nonprofit and for profit always with a focus on social good. I’m currently the New Business Development Manager for ONeil Interactive where I work with home builders across the country to improve their digital efforts. I also manage BmoreEvents promoting social good events and causes as well as nonprofits resources.

My favorite activities revolve around spending time with my family enjoying the outdoors and working towards our goal of visiting every National Park.

 

How has cancer impacted your life?

 

My senior year of high school was 1997. This also coincides with the inception of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. I was an active guy who played sports and lifeguarded at Beaver Dam. During the excitement of summer my senior year, I had several medical issues arise that changed my college experience.

The long and short of it was after going to the ER and a gastroenterologist I was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus and Ulcerative Colitis. I had polyps in both instances and the Colitis polyps were villous adenomas. It’s not often that boys in high school are diagnosed with these issues, but more often men ranging from 40-60. Of my 38 years of life, I’ve spent 20 of them having countless procedures, medications, and other treatments. I’m extremely fortunate that the polyps weren’t cancerous when they were found and my symptoms have gotten better over time which isn’t common.

I’ve escaped cancer for now, but several of my friends and colleagues haven’t. I’m committed to becoming better educated and helping to share that knowledge and the experience of cancer in young adults. I also want to make the lives of those (and their families) enduring cancer at a young age better in some way by supporting the great work of the Ulman Cancer Fund.

 

How did you get involved with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults?

 

I first heard about UCF several years ago participating in Mustaches for Kids – a month long charitable initiative that tied in facial hair. M4K occured for a time during November along with several other beard/mustache related organizations. I wanted to give exposure to them all. I was able to do so locally after reconnecting with Averil Christens-Barry. My first UCF experience was via this No Shave November blog post. That post and promoting many of Ulman’s ensuing events led to my involvement in the inaugural Game Changers class.

 

What have you gotten out of the GameChangers program?

 

Participating in the Game Changers program was an amazing opportunity. I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the work being done at UCF and serve first hand. I listened to personal stories, met patients/survivors, and experienced meaningful impact.

 

How are you blending your personal and professional life?

 

Working in the home building industry and being focused on social good has allowed me several opportunities to blend my personal and professional life. While I was at the International Builders Show I was able to meet one of the founders of Iowa Skilled Trades. The work they’re doing to address the skilled trades gap recently garnered the involvement of Baltimorean, Mike Rowe.  

 

It’s also been incredible to be involved with the completion of the UCF House!

 

Tell us about your work with the UCF House

 

It was an exciting coincidence (with a dash of destiny) that after being nominated/accepted to be a GameChanger, I found out about the UCF House. As part of my career I’m active with the Maryland Building Industry Association and their Future Industry Leaders Council. This natural alignment and the dedication of key MBIA staff and members facilitated the donation of cabinets, appliances, and their installation. A fantastic outcome from a most unexpected opportunity!

 

What do you find most exciting about the UCF House opening?

 

The UCF House not only fills the need of providing housing for young adult cancer patients and their families, but also provides a supportive communal environment just blocks from Johns Hopkins Hospital.

 

What do you want your legacy to be?

 

My hope is that the work I’m passionate about and participate in creates positive impact and inspires others. Ultimately, my goal is to raise my children with opportunities to contribute meaningfully to society. It would bring me the greatest joy to have them experience the incredible sense of progress and fulfillment that comes with service and stewardship while valuing their time doing so.

The Ulman House – It’s all in the Details

It’s been an exciting time here at the Ulman Cancer Fund since construction began on the Ulman House! In September, we began the process of deconstruction on the existing row homes in our six-unit stretch of E Madison Street in East Baltimore. For the deconstruction, we worked with Baltimore based company, Details whose workforce is made up of local people facing barriers to employment. One man we worked with grew up just blocks from the Ulman House! Besides the social impact of Details work, their environmental impact is important too. They were able to recover brick and wood from the deconstruction process that will go back into our rebuild of the property and into future construction projects around Baltimore.

This deconstruction of the property and recycling of materials helps us towards our goal of becoming LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

LEED is a green building rating system which provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient, sustainable buildings. We believe this is important not only for the health of our patients and caregivers but for the health of the environment as well.

One of the most exciting parts of this deconstruction process was that we were able to save the more than one-hundred-year-old facade. Keeping the original brick front was important to us to be able to continue the timeline of the story of Baltimore. The red brick row home is an important architectural staple in Baltimore and we’re happy to showcase it on E Madison Street. The bracing of the facade has allowed the dig out of the lower level to begin. Stay tuned for more updates!

     The back of the property before deconstruction

Details worker who grew up blocks from the House

Back of property during reconstruction
 The facade braced for construction to begin

Lower level dig out

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.

 

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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.

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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!

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