This April I am riding from DC to Key West to raise money and awareness for young adults like us who are in the process of fighting cancer. Dealing with an unexpected cancer diagnosis been a big part of our life for the last year and a half, and though we have managed the logistics and financial impacts so far through careful coordination, many others are not as lucky. In the US, nearly half of the people who are diagnosed with cancer go bankrupt within two years. The impact is even greater for young adults. I am taking part in this ride and raising money for programs that support young adults going through this experience. Here is our story...
Me and my lovely wife Suzie shortly before she was diagnosed
Suzie and I have known each other since 2012. Both University of Florida graduates, we met in Florida, spent a year living in New Zealand, then moved to Colorado where we got married Summer 2016. We were happy, working in our respective fields and enjoying an active life in Colorado, until our life shifted off course.
In the fall of 2017, Suzie experienced progressive headaches for a couple weeks, then suddenly she experienced a change in vision and began seeing double. Worried, I flew home from a work trip and we went to the Emergency Room to have her evaluated. On Oct. 12, 2017, at only 26, Suzie was diagnosed with metastatic (Stage 4) Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, a high grade cancer that arose in the back of her nose and moved into the base of her skull and a vertebrae in her cervical spine.
(tumor outlined in red)
We traveled to many different treatment centers at great personal expense to give her the best possible outcome. When she was first diagnosed, we traveled to Pittsburgh to consult with a nationally recognized surgeon who specializes in skull base tumors. The team at Pittsburgh removed about 25% of the tumor from her skull base through her nose, but she lost a lot of blood during the procedure and it wasn't clear whether her tumor should be fully removed, so the surgery was paused.
Suzie recovering from skull base surgery in Pittsburgh
Surgery wasn't an option for Suzie, and she was referred to a harvard specialist for proton particle therapy in Boston, Massachusetts. Following her treatmet, which took place over three months, we moved back to Colorado.
Going in for proton therapy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston
Ringing the bell after Proton Therapy. Suzie had 42 total treatments from November 2017 through February 2018.
When we returned to Colorado, Suzie slipped down a stair and fell on her back, which shattered one of her vertebraes. Scans at the E.R. revealed several more tumors in her cervical spine. She had to start systemic chemotherapy. We traveled to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas to consult with the medical oncologist who has the most expertise in her specific genetic mutations that triggered her cancer. Suzie was started on a challenging chemotherapy regimen and we relocated back to Colorado.
Suzie "ringing the bell" after finishing CAP infusions in Colorado. She loved wearing her "pirate" shirt to chemo sessions!
Suzie was on this regimen for several months and faced many trials. She was hospitalized several times with neutropenic fever (sepsis) and at one point had nearly no immune system. We are lucky she made it through her treatment, which successfully kept the cancer at bay through January of this year.
Suzie and her new best friend Lucy a couple months out from her last chemotherapy appointment.
Last month we found out that a couple of her tumors, including her primary tumor, were recurring. We consulted once more with her medical onclogist in Houston who started her on a clinical trial. Now, we are traveling back and forth every week between our home base and the clinical trial location we chose until we can either transfer treatment to our home base or relocate once more to the clinical trial location. We'll keep doing this treatment as long as it works, and have another clinical trial lined up in the case the treatment is no longer effective.
Suzie hiking in New Zealand before this all started
This is been a huge challenge for us over the past year and a half. We've relocated a dozen times had six several-day hospital stays at great personal expense despite excellent health care coverage. This experience is especially difficult for young adults like us as the fewest resources are available to support our demographic. Luckily for us we still have savings to support us, but this experience has been a significant financial burden as well with about $75,000 in out of pocket expenses for us related to insurance premiums, COBRA, flights, hotels, and other incidental expenses.
I am sharing all of this to offer a snapshot of the burden young adults face with a devestating cancer diagnosis. Many are not as lucky as us with personal resources to fund relocation and treatment. As part of this experience I'd like to contribute as possible to organizations like the Ulman Foundation that provide assistance to young adults impacted by cancer.
I've chosen to honor Suzie and this experience by participating in the Key to Keys 2019 ride to benefit the Ulman Foundation. The ride begins in Balitmore and ends in Key West, over about a week, with a primary goal to raise both money and exposure for Adolescents and Young Adults living with cancer. The AYA community is historically underserved, and organizations like Ulmans Foundation fill a critical unmet need of relocation assistance, fertility and career counseling, and emotional support for young adults and caregivers affected by cancer.
My fundraising target is $4.5K, and I welcome your financial and emotional support to meet this goal. Over 90% of these funds will be re-invested into both capital projects and strategic initiatives benefitting young adults like ourselves unexpectedly displaced by a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
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!
|Darshi Shary||05/05/2019||$50.00||Wish you all the best!||Jesse Summers||04/30/2019||$50.00||Jacqueline Noto||04/30/2019||$18.00||Hi kids, I thought I supported Jesse when first posted, but I'm not on list. Sending love.||AstraZeneca||04/19/2019||$100.00||Jesse Summers||04/15/2019||$.00||Jesse Summers||04/13/2019||$.00||Monique Mennis||04/13/2019||$200.00||Jesse thank you for raising awareness and being the best support for Suzie. We’ll be cheering you on from afar during your ride! Love, Monique & Will||Liz Huntley||04/11/2019||$100.00||Inspired by your journey and sending my support.||Ruth Samuel||04/04/2019||$500.00||Dear Jessie and Suzie, Wishing you the courage and strength to keep on carrying on. You are an inspiration. Sending love and warmth. Ruth and Peter||Laurie Kerr||04/03/2019||$100.00||Love you both!||Mary Beth Harow||03/29/2019||$25.00||You and your wife is what Ulman is all about! As a 2015 and 2018 alumni, and an oncology nurse, I just wanted to give some support. I hope you have an amazing ride to Key West and receive all the love and support you deserve!||Kathy Fried||03/26/2019||$250.00||With you in heart and spirit forever and always.||Joshua Cripps||03/26/2019||$50.00||Zachary Zalneraitis||03/25/2019||$50.00||Kathleen Wilson||03/25/2019||$25.00||Michelle Roethemeyer||03/25/2019||$25.00||AstraZeneca||03/05/2019||$100.00||AstraZeneca||03/05/2019||$50.00||AstraZeneca||03/05/2019||$25.00||AstraZeneca||03/05/2019||$100.00||Jessie: God Bless!!! YOU WILL RECOVER! POSITIVE MINDSET, BRING POSITIVE RESULTS||AstraZeneca||03/05/2019||$50.00||AstraZeneca||03/05/2019||$500.00||Jesse Summers||03/04/2019||$500.00||In honor of Suzie, and in support of others going through the same struggle.||Kayla Hurley||03/03/2019||$50.00||Best of Luck!||Diana Vass||03/01/2019||$25.00||Herminio Bosques||03/01/2019||$100.00||Jessie: God Bless!!! YOU WILL RECOVER … POSITIVE MINDSET, BRING POSITIVE RESULTS from your AZ colleagues!||Anonymous Friend||03/01/2019||$50.00||Michael Cloud||03/01/2019||$50.00||Suzie, good luck with your journey to health and Jesse good luck on your ride!||Nayda Berrios||02/28/2019||$50.00||Barbara Ramsey||02/28/2019||$25.00||Robert Lalley||02/28/2019||$100.00||Never Give Up! You are an inspiration to us all!||Greg Turner||02/28/2019||$25.00||Steve Diddle||02/28/2019||$25.00||Maura DiJoseph||02/27/2019||$30.00||Wishing you all the best||Theresa Riess||02/26/2019||$50.00||Sending positive thoughts and prayers - from AstraZeneca West Chester||Mika, Ryan and Jonah Oakes||02/25/2019||$100.00||Jesse, good luck with your ride. Such a great cause. Suzie, we love you. <3||Jesse Summers||02/18/2019||$50.00||Travis Dossett||02/18/2019||$100.00||Amanda Lariz- McDaniel||02/18/2019||$20.00||Best wishes for you and your family.||Cheryl Simmons||02/16/2019||$50.00||Best wishes, prayers and thoughts on this journey!AstraZeneca, Frederick Md Site||Ken Stephens||02/15/2019||$50.00||I hope you reach your goal and more. Good luck.||Savanna Carson||02/01/2019||$25.00||Good luck Jesse!||Christian Stubner||01/27/2019||$25.00||Ken Becker||01/22/2019||$100.00||On behalf of Jen Wingard's efforts||Ellie Weyer||01/22/2019||$50.00||Yeaahhh, Jesse! Let us know if the route takes you near us, we'd love to come out and cheer you on! Hugs to you and Suzie.||John Khoury||01/21/2019||$100.00||Thoughts and prayers for you and Suzie. Very noble of you. Good luck on the journey.||Lauren Schwartz||01/21/2019||$100.00||You are truly inspirational and I’m so happy to be able to support you on this journey.||Jon Riley||01/20/2019||$75.00||Inspirational Jesse!||Molissa Farber||01/19/2019||$20.00||You guys have been in my thoughts all year. Good luck on the ride. If you want to grab a beer or some crabs while you are in Baltimore, or if you need a place to stay for a couple days before the ride begins, let me know. I have a couch!||Walter Arnold||01/19/2019||$50.00||All the best to you both!||Donna Sales-Smith||01/19/2019||$25.00||Hugs and prayers to you and your family. Good luck on the ride, Jesse.||Suzie Summers||01/19/2019||$54.00||Love you both. Jesse this is a great thing to do. Suzie you constantly inspire me. XO love aunt jackie||Dennis Santos||01/18/2019||$50.00||Hey man I’m not sure how the ride is structured but if you need a place to crash around Gainesville my place is open to you.||Kristen Summers||01/18/2019||$50.00||Love you brother!||Zoe Fried||01/18/2019||$25.00||A wonderful way to honor a wonderful woman. Jeff & I will cheer you on from Baltimore!||Miguel Saavedra||01/18/2019||$72.00||Geri Summers||01/18/2019||$150.00||We are so glad you have this opportunity, Jesse. We are proud of you always. We love you, Aunts Geri and Judy||Matt Gorstein||01/18/2019||$50.00||Love you both. Let me know if this trek takes you through Charleston.||Jose Pena||01/18/2019||$50.00||Praying for the best my friend.||Shaun Brown||01/18/2019||$50.00||Best of luck on your journey. Our thoughts and prayers will be with you.||Lissette Portocarrero||01/18/2019||$50.00||Happy to support in anyway we can!||Angie Nunn||01/18/2019||$25.00||Very inspirational. Ride with purpose.||Kaley Krick||01/18/2019||$50.00||For all those that fight and the ones who love them.||Anonymous Friend||01/18/2019||$100.00||James Nguyen||01/18/2019||$35.00||Peter Grant||01/09/2019||$50.00||Jesse, enjoy every second of the K2K Experience!!! #K2K2019||AstraZeneca||12/31/2018||$300.00||Erin Hill||12/31/2018||$300.00||Jesse Summers||12/18/2018||$50.00|