Leah Stevens is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. In the summer of 2019, she will be traveling with a group of college-aged students on a 49-day, 4000+ mile run from San Francisco to New York, raising money and awareness for the Ulman Foundation.
What is your connection to the cancer community?
In February 2018, I was getting ready to graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Music. My flute auditions for graduate schools had gone well, I was finishing up my degree requirements, I was working and teaching, and I was training for the Cleveland Marathon. On February 28th, I had a high point of my flute career, soloing with the Cleveland Institute of Music orchestra. The following day, my parents broke the news to me that the reason my grandma had not attended is because she was too sick to travel, more sick than I could have ever guessed. She had been diagnosed with stage three pancreatic cancer. My grandmother and godmother, a second mother to me, “Grammy” was embarking on the fight of her life.
Devastated, I traveled every week between NY and Cleveland, spending all the time I could with her while she underwent intensive treatments, her health declining rapidly. I struggled to finish my degree, to practice, to run, to function. But, as a testament to her strength through her battle, I continued to train for the marathon, and I did it. Sporting a jersey with her name on in, I ran 26.2, and she was able to stream it from NY. A Cleveland news outlet even ran a story on me where I spoke of her as the strongest person I know. To her, it was my greatest gift. The next day I graduated, and soon after I returned to NY to be at her side, a time I am blessed to have been able to spend with her. We sang songs, laughed, and shared in the most special moments.
The cancer spread, and a week later, on June 26th, she passed in her home, surrounded by her loving family. I miss her more and more each day, and hope to aid in the fight against the terrible disease that took her too soon.
Why are you traveling 4,000 miles this summer with the Ulman Foundation?
Before she passed, she told me about our special bond. She told me, “Leah, when you are hurting, I am hurting. And when you are happy, I am so, so happy.” Moving forward, I am determined to heal and live happily, so that she, wherever she may be, will feel it too. It is an honor to know I will travel the country to provide support and service to young people battling cancer.
For me, this trip is a way to honor Grammy by living as my best self. She had a way of bringing people together, making them laugh until they cry. She was loving and nurturing. At 79, she was still young at heart- constantly singing, dancing, gardening, playing piano, and painting, just to name a few things. She lived her life filled with humor, a contagious positive energy, a love for everything she did, and absolutely no regrets.
The immense physical journey of a cross-country trip is representative of the battles cancer patients face each and every day. Traveling and listening to the stories of others is the best way to gain a better world view and see life from various perspectives. To embark on an adventure of such a grand scale and to connect with others in the most humanizing way is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
2019 marks the 18th year of the 4K for Cancer sending young adults on journeys across the country in an effort to inspire hope and unite communities in the fight against cancer. The 4K for Cancer is a program of the Ulman Foundation (Ulman). Interested in joining the fight? Apply to be a rider or runner a at www.4kforcancer.org!
Over 72,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer every year. Young adults (ages 15-39) face a variety of unique challenges with a cancer diagnosis including fertility preservation, social isolation, lack of insurance, delayed diagnosis, and more.
Ulman Foundation changes lives by creating a community of support for young adults, and their loved ones, impacted by cancer. With your support, Ulman is able to provide free support services and resources for the young adult cancer community including:
Cancer to 5K - a 12-week training program designed to introduce or reintroduce cancer survivors to physical activity.
Patient Navigation - a free program (onsite at cancer centers and remotely through our office) that ensures no young adult ever faces cancer alone. We provide one-on-one support & resources to young adults and their families to help them manage the cancer experience and long-term cancer survival.
Scholarships - a financial assistance program to help young adults continue their education after being affected by cancer through their own diagnosis or the diagnosis of a loved one.
Ulman House - This year Ulman will open a “home away from home” to provide free housing for young adult cancer patients, and their caregivers, in East Baltimore.
Your donation will help make these programs and our mission possible!
|Catherine Marchesano||01/15/2019||$100.00||So proud of you...wishing you a safe and fun journey :) Cathy & Mike Marchesano||Shawna Irish||01/13/2019||$20.00||Way to go, Leah! You are amazing! Enjoy the adventure!||Jacie Lee||01/13/2019||$50.00||Dear Leah, Thanks for inspiring us! God bless! All the best for your incredible journey! The Song Family||Jo-Ann Carhart||01/13/2019||$25.00||Good luck with the run. We think of Gloria all of the time and miss her a bunch.||Maria Pirgousis||01/09/2019||$20.00||Best of luck to you||Gloria Madonia||01/08/2019||$100.00||GOOD LUCK LEAH. Love you. Xoxoxo||Nichole Greene||01/08/2019||$50.00||Cindy Worms||01/07/2019||$100.00||Michael Berg||01/07/2019||$50.00||Good luck, Leah! Love, The Berg Family||Terri Kern||01/06/2019||$20.00||Christopher Neske||01/06/2019||$100.00||Glenn Heckinger||01/05/2019||$100.00||Proud to know you, Leah... your selflessness is no surprise. You are an inspiration to us all!||Anonymous Friend||01/05/2019||$50.00||Jocelyn, Ally & Steph Chiu||01/03/2019||$35.00||Go Leah! We love what you’re doing and can’t wait to hear about your progress this summer.||Mark Bligh||01/03/2019||$40.00||Bravo, Leah! Good luck!||Anonymous Friend||01/02/2019||$50.00||All best wishes on your journey!||Joan Alia||01/01/2019||$20.00||Great story Leah, keep making a difference!||Yesenia Santana||01/01/2019||$100.00||Good luck ! Your dad wake up every to fullfill kids life with laugh and happiness. He is one of my kids all-time favorite teacher. You should be so proud to have an amazing human being as a dad. From Eduardo and Alejandro Santana||Nicholas Quan||01/01/2019||$50.00||Good luck on your amazing journey, Leah!!!! You rock!||Catalin Wong||01/01/2019||$50.00||Dear Leah, what you are doing is such an inspiration to me. After going through what you have gone through, it is very brave and considerate of you to do what you are doing. I hope you continue to be the inspiring person you are!||Beth Wolpert||12/31/2018||$20.00||Go Leah!||Lori Rasul||12/31/2018||$50.00||Wishing you the best, Leah! You’re an amazing person! Good luck. Love, The Rasul family||Blake Sabolboro||12/31/2018||$20.00||May a cure be found soon !||Lisa Kantanas||12/31/2018||$100.00||Keep being an amazing human!!!||Parul Vishal||12/31/2018||$100.00||So proud of you Leah God bless you may you be successful in your endeavor, your Hrandma must be very proud of you.||Leonard Apicella||12/29/2018||$100.00||Marta Daly||12/26/2018||$50.00||Leah, your courage and dedication are an inspiration! Best wishes for this amazing journey! From, The Daly Family||Jane Goldschlager||12/22/2018||$50.00||Supporting you, Leah. Make sure your father buys you cool and expensive gear - I like Patagonia. xojane||Ann Marie Yu||12/22/2018||$100.00||Wishing you all the best on your journey Leah Love The Marcoline family||Vicky Vayias||12/22/2018||$100.00||Best of luck to you from the Vayias Family.||Francine LaSala||12/21/2018||$50.00||Best of luck from Maddie and Jules, who both count your dad as one of their all-time favorite teachers! (Their mom too.)||Norka Fuertes||12/21/2018||$150.00||God Bless you on your journey Leah||Brian Yuen||12/21/2018||$50.00||as a fellow CMU alumni and endurance athlete, we gladly support the Stevens' family. Have a safe journey||Fino Celano||12/21/2018||$50.00||Good luck on this remarkable journey. Congratulations on your commitment to this most worthy cause.||Julie Fegan||12/20/2018||$50.00||I work with your dad, and wish you the best of luck on this tremendously meaningful journey!||Patricia Fruda||12/20/2018||$50.00||Best of luck on this incredible journey!||Jodie Ruggiano||12/20/2018||$100.00||Mark Su||12/20/2018||$100.00||This is an amazing cause. Good luck, Leah!||Melissa Blady||12/20/2018||$50.00||You are doing an amazing, wonderful, truly remarkable thing! Bravo to you! Good Luck||Ronni Stuart||12/20/2018||$30.00||Best wishes||Anonymous Friend||12/20/2018||$100.00||Good luck! Make sure your dad buys you good running shoes.||Kathleen Kolba||12/18/2018||$75.00||Good Luck Leah! This is quite an adventure and wonderful cause||Andrea Somma||12/18/2018||$100.00||This will be an amazing journey! Lots of luck to you!!!||Maryanne Janus||12/17/2018||$100.00||Leah Stevens||12/13/2018||$100.00|