The American Cancer Society, GenomOncology, and Me
I’ve been working with the American Cancer Society in some capacity since I was in 8th grade, when some friends and I started a Relay for Life team. If you’re not familiar, Relay is a 24-hour event where teams fundraise for the ACS and pledge to have at least one team member walking on a track for the event’s duration. It’s fun - people sell summery treats, and different teams sponsor all kinds of activities. Any money raised is then donated to the American Cancer Society.
The first year I joined, I did it because 1) all of my friends were doing it, and 2) my grandmother had passed away from lung cancer when I was 9. It wasn’t unexpected - she was a lifetime smoker, quite old, and died of lung cancer - but it gave me my first experience of what cancer, and its treatment, can do to a person.
I continued to participate in Relay for Life with my group of friends throughout high school, and was always moved by the stories that people shared at the event. Almost by happenstance, I had introduced myself to a community of people who were personally affected by cancer in some capacity, and I remember being really moved by the experience each time. It reminded me of my grandmother, and the difficult experience my mom must have had in caregiving for her while she underwent treatment.
Caption: Me raising money for the American Cancer Society at a lemonade stand when I was 15. Sign says “Lemon-AID the American Cancer Society. Luckily (?), my sense of humor has remained unchanged and I am still proud of this sign.
A few years after my team completed our last Relay as high schoolers, I was entering my junior year of college when I was diagnosed with a rare, but prognostically lucky, lymphoma in my skull bone. I underwent a bunch of chemotherapy and radiation, and was lucky to have fared well with my treatment. I obtained a complete response with no evidence of disease. My relationship to the American Cancer Society deepened, as I frequently used their website to research my kind of cancer and the treatment I was receiving, in addition to utilizing their community-building resources to meet fellow survivors. I joined my school’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer (which is Relay for Life but at college) and met a group of people who had similar personal relationships with cancer. I even found myself meeting other people who had gone through cancer treatment at my age, and started building a community around this new facet of my life. It meant so much to my emotional recovery to be able to talk to people who had comparable experiences.
When I graduated, I accepted a job at GenomOncology (GO), where we build software solutions to enable access to precision cancer treatments and clinical trials. I’ve learned so much about cancer biology at my company, and am frequently floored by the pace of discovery of new cancer treatments. My work at GO has given me a new perspective of the ACS - I’m well aware that many of these new treatments would not have been possible, or would have taken much longer to discover, without funds from supporters like the ACS. In an effort to pay it forward, I started talking to the managers of the ACS Hope Lodge in Cleveland (the Hope Lodge provides free housing for cancer patients who have to travel long distances for cancer treatment) to see if we could help out with anything. With GenomOncology’s support, I organized a partnership with the Hope Lodge where we cooked two dinners for the residents of the Lodge, and raised money to donate a new TV and treadmill to the Lodge. Here are some pictures of us at the Lodge:
Caption - Group of GO team members after cooking dinner for our Hope Lodge event (night 1).
Caption - group of GO team members after cooking dinner for the Hope Lodge event (night 2); some of whom are fresh off a red-eye from a client visit!
Because of my experiences with cancer from so many perspectives, it feels good to work at a company like Genomoncology and with organizations like the American Cancer Society. Most recently, I have been nominated as an ACS ResearcHERS ambassador, where I have been personally raising money that’s specifically earmarked for women-led cancer research. This is so important at a time when non-COVID research dollars have dramatically dwindled - cancer patients don’t stop having cancer just because of COVID, and cancer research still needs to happen to accelerate the development of breakthrough discoveries that save peoples’ lives.
I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work at a company like GenomOncology, and with nonprofits like the American Cancer Society, to help cancer patients get access to breakthrough treatments. When it comes to my personal experience with cancer, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been cancer free for almost 6 years now. That’s not the case for a lot of people who’ve had personal experiences with cancer, and organizations like Genomoncology and the American Cancer Society are working to see that all people with cancer have access to constantly improving therapy options. I know that I’m excited to see what’s to come from cancer research in the coming years, and look forward to continuing my relationship with the American Cancer Society and my work at GenomOncology.