As part of my job at Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, I have the privilege of planning our YACS B’more events. Last Thursday, I was thrilled to see all the work of planning the event come together beautifully as we had an awesome turnout! (A big thank you to Ryleigh’s Oyster Bar for generously donating the loft space and some appetizers for the event!)
I think that our featured speaker, Tom Backof, had a bit to do with the crowd that came out; I would dare say over 50% were there because of Tom.
If you don’t know Tom, you should make an effort to meet him. He is truly a remarkable young man who is making the best of his cancer journey. The amount of support he has from his family & friends is tremendous. You’ll see what I mean if you take a peek the picture below.
Tom’s background is fascinating – He spent last summer in Greece as part of his biology graduate studies working on the beach with sea turtles. While there, he lived in a tent, walked about 10 miles a day in the sand, was exposed to extreme heat, lived on vegetarian food (which Tom describes as not good due to it being made by a non-vegetarian and maybe because he is a meat eater), and had a wacky sleeping schedule – all this to say that he wasn’t noticing some of symptoms he was having as he could excuse them due to the environment in which he was living.
When Tom came back to Indiana, he started eating burgers and other junk food thinking he could put back on the weight he had lost; but he continued to lose weight, he wasn’t sleeping well, and he was having shortness of breath so he decided to go to the doctor. The doctor took an x-ray of Tom’s chest and discovered one side was completely dark – they went on to find that he had a 4 pound tumor in his chest cavity that made one of his lungs collapse. The doctor advised him he needed surgery immediately. So Tom picked up the phone to call his Mom & Dad, which he described as taken a good 5 minutes to do as he was physically shaking from what the doctors had just told him.
Needless to say, his parents immediately got into the car to pick up Tom and bring him back to Baltimore, as they wanted their son to be treated locally since we have some of the best medical facilities in the nation in our own backyard. Tom’s tumor was removed which was diagnosed as Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma. He then underwent chemotherapy and is still undergoing treatment. His mom encouraged Tom to contact UCF to discuss some of the unique issues with young adults and cancer treatment.
Tom is still undergoing medical treatments for his cancer and we do hope that one day he can say he is 100% cancer free! Until that day, Tom is a great advocate for UCF and leads a kickball team to help spread awareness of young adult cancer and how UCF can help. We are thankful for his willingness to share his story as he too is helping to transform lives of those impacted by cancer.