In April 2010 Nikki Ferraro, a junior in high school, was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer.
Now a sophomore at James Madison University, she recently took some time to talk more about her journey and the foundation.
Q: Please tell me about Bite Me Cancer.
A: Within a few weeks after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I decided to form a Relay for Life team to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The “Bite Me Cancer” name came to me as I was putting my team together. I received so much financial and emotional support for the Relay. My team ended up in first place, and I was the number one individual fundraiser. I even received an American Cancer Society award for being the number one individual online fundraiser for the 2010 Relay season in the South-Atlantic Division.
After the Relay took place, I did not want that support to end. I thought that I could put the support to good use by continuing efforts to raise money to fight cancer. In July, I started talking to my parents (Sharon and Michael Ferraro of TRAINING SOLUTIONS, Inc.) about helping to start a foundation. They really were not ready to put the time and money into a foundation at that point, but I would not let it go. So in September 2010, they went ahead and let me start a foundation; and we decided that “Bite Me Cancer” should be the name of the foundation since we had received so much support that summer.
The foundation’s goals are:
- To raise money for thyroid cancer research and education. Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer in this country over the past five years for both men and women. More children are also getting diagnosed with this disease, and many doctors are not looking for it in children. Thyroid cancer treatment is much trickier than people think. The money we raise toward this goal is currently going towards a special two-year $50,000 research grant. I’m excited about this because we will know who the doctors are and what their research will attempt to do. The grant recipients will have been approved through the American Thyroid Association.
- To help teens with all types of cancer, through financial and emotional support. When I was dealing with my diagnosis at 17 years old, I did not find organizations that really focused on teens with cancer. I knew that I wanted to help other teens. Currently, we are distributing a teen support bag that I call “A Bit of Bite Me Cancer” that goes to teens being treated for cancer. Inside the bag are items that we selected based on the input of oncology staff and teens, so there are items appropriate for teens like an iTunes gift card, stress ball, water bottle, baseball cap, USB drive. Some items have Bite Me Cancer on them to remind them that “Attitude is everything” which is our tag line. We are always looking for more hospitals, oncology units, and other support organizations who have teen patients who can receive our support bags.
Q: What do you hope people will learn from the organization’s mission?
A: I want the “Bite Me Cancer” attitude to become very popular to help inspire others to keep fighting and be positive. I want people to learn much more about the seriousness of thyroid cancer (symptoms, challenges, treatments) and the importance of the thyroid. We need to raise much more money for research as the treatment options are limited right now. I want teens with cancer to know that there are thousands of other teens with cancer and that we understand their struggles and challenges and to let them know that they aren’t alone.
Q: How has overseeing this foundation changed you as a person?
A: I have met so many people who have inspired me, and I have been told that I have inspired many people. I cannot imagine my life now without knowing many of them. My life is so much richer, and I have learned so much about myself. I have grown in a lot of ways, from being confident to speak in front of a large group of people, to leaning on God a lot more, to learning so much medical information, to learning about how to run a foundation. I am definitely more comfortable and confident with who I am.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Recently, I received approval from JMU for there to be a sanctioned Bite Me Cancer Club on campus. I am so excited about this! I am hoping that many students at JMU will want to help spread the word about what we are doing with Bite Me Cancer and also come up with activities to raise money towards the foundation’s goals.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: We have a website, www.bitemecancer.org, and there is a volunteer form as well as donation options on the website. We are always looking for interested people who want to be on the board of directors or a committee, and we are always looking for partners who want to have a fundraising event for us. We also need corporate sponsors to help with the cost of some events as well as to support the ongoing efforts of Bite Me Cancer.
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