There are only a handful of moments in my life that, when I close my eyes, I can still remember almost every little detail about that exact moment – where I was, what I was feeling, the sounds, the smells – everything. What makes those moments exceptionally extraordinary is the fact that you can remember not only the physical details, but the emotional ones as well.
It was late August 2005 and a brutally hot and humid day in downtown Washington, DC when my phone buzzed. It was my boyfriend, Nate. He was calling to tell me that the doctor’s visit– the one I had been hounding him about ever since he felt an abnormal lump – did not go well. In fact, the doctor thought he had cancer.
He was 22 years old.
After an orchiectomy, biopsy and CT scan (all which happened within a week), he was officially diagnosed with stage II testicular cancer.
About half way through his chemo treatment, Nate decided he needed others who could relate to his experience. He wanted to talk to people who knew what it was like to be caught in “cancer purgatory” – not young enough to fully identify with pediatric patients, not far enough into adulthood to identify with older cancer patients… but just unique enough to have an entirely different spectrum of concerns and issues.
We found the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults just in time to attend one of their Cancer Unplugged events – hearing from a young adult survivor helped Nate really open up about going through cancer. Simply knowing that there were actually other patients, survivors and their families out there that had gone through similar experiences was exactly what we needed. I had the opportunity to speak spouses, parents, and siblings of young adult patients and survivors and learn how to be the best support system I could be for him during the tough times. We left the event feeling something we had not felt since before his diagnosis. Hope.
I wanted to introduce myself with the story about Nate who, six years later is now my husband, because that single moment – the one where he went from being a healthy young man to cancer patient – was a carefully placed stone in my path to the Ulman Cancer Fund. Here I am, six years later, as the new Program Director for the Awareness through Sports programs. I could not be happier to be part of the Ulman Cancer Fund family. In a recent email, Diana Ulman said that I’d come “full circle” – from someone whose loved one benefited from the Ulman Cancer Fund to someone who could help others going through similar experiences.
UCF has always done valuable and meaningful work in not only raising awareness for the young adult population through the Awareness through Sports programs, but also providing those valuable direct services to young adults affected by cancer– from patient navigation to scholarships to support groups. I’ve had the privilege of watching (Brock referred to it as “stalking” in my interview) the organization grow since that Cancer Unplugged event in 2006.
On April 16th, 2012, my first day at the Ulman Cancer Fund, the Run Across America team was finishing their cross-country journey at Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center. Watching an amazing group of passionate individuals cross the finish line, greeted by cheering family and friends, and knowing that their stories have inspired so many people, was one of those rare moments – like the one I experienced when Nate first told me he had cancer. I will always remember the little physical details – where I was, the sights, the sounds, the smells.
But above all, I will remember how I felt at that exact moment – exceptionally grateful, thankful and blessed to be officially part of the Ulman Cancer Fund family.
Program Director, Awareness Through Sports Initiatives
The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults