St. Baldrick's: The 2012 NYCOM Experience
A compilation of works submitted by students and faculty of the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine of NYIT. The words within these pages were written in the spirit of hope and are meant to promote the continuing fight against cancer.
On March 18, 2012, members and supporters of Team NYCOM came together to take a stand against pediatric cancer. Within these pages are the thoughts and sentiments of students and faculty who were united by a common goal, the goal to live in a world free of cancer. "To become a doctor implicitly places us on the side of those who believe that the world can change. Every medical act challenges the apparent inevitability of the world as it is and the natural history of illness, disability, and death ...people become physicians to struggle against the weight of human suffering, and thereby place themselves squarely on the side of those who intervene in the present, because they believe the future can be different." -Dr. Jonathan Mann NYCOM's St. Baldrick's Team started as just a simple idea...but has transcended into something bigger than any of us could have ever imagined. The event and our team was quite simply a revolution. Please allow me to delve into a little of the history as to how it all came about... "She has what kind of cancer? Rhabdomyo....WHAT?" This was my first expression when my mom first told me that my cousin, Stephanie, was diagnosed with cancer. She battled it for several years after being diagnosed, and seemed as if she may even beat it at certain points. However, she unfortunately passed away in 2008 at the age of 21 (more info: http://www.stephaniejoseph.com/). Cancer became real to me for the first time as someone close to me passed away. I instantly became fearful of losing other loved ones, so felt a need to get up and do something whenever possible. In March of 2010, before I even started at NYCOM, people in my ambulance agency back in Westchester, NY (www.eastchesterems.com/) started a St. Baldrick's team and I decided to join. My mother, constantly full of opinions, strongly disapproved at first, saying that I'm already losing my hair and that no girl would ever look my way if I'm bald! When that didn't work, she went on and on about how easily I'd catch a cold. When that didn't work, she pleaded with me about not looking like my brother (who maintains a cleanly bald head all the time). Ultimately, the pleadings stopped as I finally went bald with the rest of the team. I never went bald before, but I can tell you it was an amazing experience to do something a little different than simply giving money to another bake sale. Plus, my mother eventually became proud of me for my sacrifice and amount of money I raised! Back in January of 2011, during my first year at NYCOM, I looked up St. Baldrick's events in our area and saw that Downtown Cafe in Glen Cove was doing one in March. It must have been fate because it was a great time with no exams for both years and ideal proximity to school. I pitched the idea to the the NYCOM Student Government and NYCOM 2 Pediatrics Club and they were on board with it. John Zozzaro, one of the owners of Downtown Cafe, was the overall event organizer for the event in the previous 2 years and has become a good friend to all of us at NYCOM. John, along with the rest of the Downtown Cafe staff, were all VERY EXCITED to have us join in with them the past 2 years because of how many people we had going bald and the amount of money that Team NYCOM raised. Some of the things that John kept saying was, "WOW, how in the world did you guys grow so fast and raise so much money so quickly?!" My reaction to how the event turned out is an amalgamation of happiness, pride, and utter SHOCK all rolled up into one emotion! Last year, I was absolutely shocked to see the amount of people that joined and money they raised after only ONE day. If you told me in January of 2011 that NYCOM would raise over $20,000 through this St. Baldrick's event, I'd think you were crazy and/or just trying to make me feel good. Back then, I cautiously set the team goal at $1,000, and estimated that it was a number we might achieve if we were lucky. My initial thoughts were that I'd have to guilt a few of my friends into going bald with me...and through this, the handful of us might possibly reach that goal. However, the opposite occurred. The $1000 goal was met within 24 hours. With each passing day, I became more and more surprised at the higher and higher amount raised AND the number of people who signed on to go bald! Some days, our team total jumped up by thousands of dollars. I was ecstatic when we passed our goal of $1000 last year, so you can only imagine how I felt when we raised more than 20x that. The excitement continued onto this year as we raised even more money by currently being at a little over $22,000...making the net 2 year total contribution over $40,000 from NYCOM alone. Team NYCOM felt moved to do something a little bit different than just donating to another charity. People joined Team NYCOM because they had a desire for change and a vision for the future. In one loud, clear voice, Team NYCOM firmly declared that they will not accept the status quo of current cancer treatments and will not just sit around and do nothing. A major idea throughout our campaign was that actions speak louder than words. One could talk all day about wanting better outcomes for cancer patients, but Team NYCOM actually got out there and did something about it by shaving their heads and raising money. Sure, cancer may seem like a daunting, insurmountable fight. But, does that mean we should just give up and stop trying? As a medical profession, it is our responsibility to lead the charge in this fight, as well as with other diseases. 3 A majority of those on Team NYCOM were driven by a personal story of loved ones (or themselves) who were/are afflicted by cancer. For some, the decision to shave their head was harder than for others. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see all the shavees step out of their comfort zone and go bald to support a disease that is just downright unfair for children. I'm immensely proud to associate myself with a large group of altruistic people at our school. By trading in a simple thing such as the vanity associated with their hair in order to help cure a complex disease, they helped prove that NYCOM is a medical school in which its members definitely have big hearts along with smarts. The achievement of Team NYCOM represented more than bald heads, bracelets, bake sales, booklets, or 40,000 bucks. Just as importantly, I witnessed many positive things occurring on our campus itself. People from various different backgrounds, friend circles, class years, organizations, and departments (who probably would have never met otherwise) banded as a unified force for the sole purpose of fighting this widespread disease. Strong friendships were built as team members saw the value and impact of fighting together as one very large, all- inclusive NYCOM community rather than smaller subgroups or individuals. Throughout this experience, we were NOT divided up as students, faculty, or administrators...rather, we were JOINED together as simply human beings. Every time I see one of the bald heads of the shaves or shorter hair of those who donated to Locks of Love around campus, I just have to stop and say hello. It's like being part of a fraternity of some sort! Many people have given me kudos for my efforts. However, a variation of the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child" is entirely appropriate in this situation. It took a "village" of over 100 Team NYCOM members to raise $40,000 the past 2 years. This was a massive undertaking taken on by many people who, in total, dedicated hundreds of hours as a team. I'd be here all day if I thanked everyone! On behalf of everyone on Team NYCOM, I'd like to extend a very heartfelt THANK YOU to all of the members of the NYCOM community, our donors, and others that have supported for helping us make NYCOM's St. Baldrick's team a special experience and an enormous success! Hopefully it will continue to grow bigger every year!! Gebe George, Class of 2014 Team NYCOM Captain 4 THIS IS THE STORY OF MY LIFE When thinking about writing a cancer story, I struggled for days before I could start writing. The story I am writing about is both very emotional and personal to me. My story is about a young man whom I have known very well for as far back as I can remember. Growing up in Pakistan, this man had the dream and aspiration of becoming a physician. Graduating from medical school, he enjoyed his life because all of his dreams came true. He was able to live life according to his plans, was surrounded by his loved ones, and had everything he could ever imagine. Living his normal life, he did not anticipate what the future had in store for him, but how could you blame him? Who does? Fast-forward a few years. Life turned upside down for this man - nature had different plans. This young physician was diagnosed with a very rare type of bone tumor. As a result, he was unable to work, became mostly bed-ridden and wheelchair bound, and became dependent on others. He was told that his only hope for survival would be to come to the United States, where he might find treatment for this rare tumor. After receiving treatment for a year in the United States, he eventually ran short on resources. At this point, he became homeless and abandoned by most of his friends and loved ones. Cancer brought fear and uncertainty to his life. All hopes and dreams for his future vanished as if they never existed. Nothing was on his mind, but survival. That's what cancer does to people! Not only does it disable someone physically, it changes that person socially, mentally, and above all, emotionally. His feelings of helplessness would never go away. There were times when he was so tired of his daily struggle to survive that he just wanted to give up on life. During the treatment he did receive, he underwent multiple major surgeries only to discover there would be no cure. After his last surgery, his physician told him, "You will not die of this tumor as long as there is no malignant transformation." Despite the relatively good news, the fear of continued growth and possible aggressive malignancy crippled him. Recognizing this fear, his physician told him that he had decisions to make. He was given two options. The first was that he could take charge of his life. The second choice was to let his life take charge of him. Given these choices, he was given hope that he could have a second chance in life. This realization empowered him. Well, he wanted to live! Therefore, he chose the first option. After making that choice, he felt stronger than ever! 5 After that decision, he reclaimed life for himself! His pessimism turned into optimism, disappointment into delight, weakness into strength, and helplessness into self- empowerment. He was happy that he was given a second chance in life. After going through his near death experience, he began to appreciate the value of each and every moment. Although he still had to go through radiotherapy, his chemotherapy was put on hold because his bone tumor, fortunately, never metastasized. From then onwards, there was a constant smile on his face that reflected his inner happiness. At this point, you are all probably wondering why I am even telling you this story? Who is this person that I am so interested in? Well, as a matter of fact, this is the story of MY life. I have been living this story for the last 15 years when I experienced the first pathological fracture in my pelvis. After spending two years in medical school, I now have enough courage to tell you about my story. I have to admit that before coming to NYCOM, I was simply surviving. Now, my NYCOM family has taught me how to thrive! Sometimes, it feels too good to be true, and I have to stop and think whether it is a dream or reality. That's when I look around for a smile or a gesture of trust. These reassure me that it is an absolute reality. I am so thankful for the reassurances all of you have given me every day. I really hope all of you will continue to do that. You have all strengthened me so much that giving into the tumor is not an option for me. Each day you give me plenty of fuel, which I use to try to live up to my maximum potential. I am not sure if I have impacted your lives, but you have all definitely impacted my life by empowering me with your love and trust! In medical school, we get so caught up by everyday life that we forget how powerful we are! I believe that we empower ourselves every time we make small sacrifices in our lives. All of us make these sacrifices on a daily basis. Missing celebrations of family and friends, cutting phone call conversations short with loved ones, studying in a dark dingy room when the weather outside is sunny, or getting over our failures are just a few of the sacrifices that are a part of our daily lives. Though we may not realize it, these daily sacrifices add to our strengths. Every time we participate in an event like St. Baldricks, we show our human side by connecting with the entire community. That is why we can impact others more than anyone else in society. In my experience, if my physician wouldn't have empowered me, I don't know where I would be at this point in my life. His words still echo in my mind because they brought 6 me back to life. I feel so blessed that he was there at my life's turning point when I wanted to give in to the tumor. As physicians, others have granted us the power of trust. I realize it is possible to let many things slip our minds. However, my only request to you is to not forget this undeniable truth. I am afraid that if you are having a difficult day you may forget to deliver yourself. In this case someone may stop living. There will always be someone like me who is waiting for you to put your hand on his shoulder, look into his eyes, and tell him that he has every right to live. You will be amazed to find out how that person will follow your advice the rest of his or her life! Best of luck in your journey Syed Gillani, Class of 2014 This year was my second time as a shavee for St. Baldrick's. It was an inspiring experience that was well worth the hair lost. Now that I think of it, I normally might not have done this. I used to hate having short hair, so it would have taken something big to make me want to shave it all off. Well, that happened last year, when my brother, Imran, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It was a difficult year for him, ironically not because of the cancer, but from the harsh chemotherapy that treated it. Thankfully, the disease has a cure rate of about 90% and my brother is now feeling great. It's interesting that this happened during my first year at NYCOM. It was a time, where my focus was to memorize as many facts as possible and do well on exams, but had little exposure to patients. After Imran was diagnosed, I saw some of what we learned about happen with my brother. I looked through his CT scan, watched him have his chemotherapy infused, saw the common and rare side effects of the medication, and a textbook presentation of Varicella Zoster from being immunocompromised. What I gained most from this though, was an understanding of what our patients will go through. We don't have lectures about the anxiety a patient and his family feel waiting for biopsy results. We memorize whether a medication is given intravenously or not, but I saw how it became more and more painful to start an IV on my brother because of the effects of the chemotherapy on his veins. We learn about adverse effects 7 of medications, but I saw how much something as seemingly insignificant on paper as metallic taste in the mouth, hoarseness of the voice, or lethargy can impact quality of life so much. Of course, it wasn't all depressing. We also experienced the joy of a receiving a clear PET scan result and bonding as a family through the whole ordeal. Sometimes we are too worried about exams to realize that there is a person beyond the powerpoint. Seeing what my brother went through, completely changed how I viewed medicine. Having a cure rate of 90% for a disease is great, but I now know that it isn't that simple for the patient. This is part of what makes St. Baldricks such a great cause. Not only are we raising money to find treatments and cures for childhood cancer, but we have an opportunity to experience a bit of what children suffering from these diseases go through. So in the future, when we take a history, prescribe a medication, or perform a surgery, let's put ourselves in our patient's shoes and appreciate what they are going through. Ahsan Khan, Class of 2014 When Gebe first approached the Pediatrics Organization with the idea of St. Baldrick's in 2011, it sounded and felt like the right event for us to get involved in. It was team oriented, goal oriented, and something that a group of motivated individuals can come together to participate in. I have seen the effects of cancer. The toll that it can take on a person's body and mind. The collective feeling of helplessness from their friends and their family. No matter what you try to do for a person with cancer, it seemingly never feels like it's enough. St. Baldrick's was just a way for me to try to do something for someone who has been afflicted with this terrible illness. St. Baldrick's was an amazing event. Seeing everyone excited to be a part of something so worthwhile really gave me a feeling of hope. St. Baldrick's has been built into a NYCOM tradition the past 2 years, and I sincerely hope that it continues for years to come! Steven Sheng, Class of 2013 NYCOM Pediatrics President 2010-2011 8 When I was approached about volunteering to be a shavee for St. Baldricks in 2011, I'll admit that I was extremely reluctant. However, I was gradually convinced to join the fight for pediatric cancer research and I proudly joined the NYCOM Aftershave event last year. After all, it is only hair! In retrospect, I feel that I was so hesitant to initially join the team last year I did not know anyone in my life that was fighting cancer, specifically pediatric cancer. Needless to say, once I agreed to be a shavee, I soon realized how prevalent pediatric cancer is and I was more than honored to be part of such an experience. I did not think such a small gesture of shaving one's head would make a difference in a child's life, but I realized I was wrong. When I was on my pediatrics clinical rotation, I was introduced to a five year old girl who was diagnosed with a pancreatoblastoma. It seemed as if the child did not know what was really going on at the moment since she continued to play in her room. However, the worry in her mother's eyes was clearly evident. Unfortunately, I could not communicate fluently with either the mother or the child since they both spoke primarily in Spanish. Nevertheless, it was almost as if "cancer" was a universal language and an actual language barrier that did not hinder any communication. Eventually, the child had surgery to have the tumor removed and it was about the size of a grown man's fist. After recovering from the operation, the five year old girl finally started realizing the severity of her condition. I can't recall much from when I was five, but I sure did not spend those days in various parts of a hospital getting prodded by needles and being asked a myriad of questions by various healthcare professionals. Needless to say, this particular patient grabbed the attention of everyone on the floor mostly because of how strong she was and still is. She continued to smile, play, and enjoy life. The only time I picked up any sort of hesitance from her was when she was told she will lose her hair throughout the chemotherapy sessions. It wasn't the side effects of chemotherapy or the fact that toxic drugs were going through her body that scared her. No, it was the fact that her hair would be gone. Stories of how other boys and girls who also lost their hair were shared with her and she accepted the reality of the situation. At that point I realized how big an impact all the St. Baldricks volunteers and shavees make on the lives of these kids. This is only one case of pediatric cancer where the child wanted reassurance and did not want to be the only one bald. All the money we raise to help find a cure is undoubtedly important, but I personally feel the act of getting shaved 9 itself is more important. This act shows all children fighting cancer that they are not alone and that they do have someone fighting for them in addition to their family and friends. I can't pinpoint the exact reason for joining the team this year. It may have been beacause I was a shavee last year, but I think it was the fact of physically seeing a child fight cancer in its various stages. Regardless, I am more than honored to have been a part of the NYCOM 2012 St. Baldrick's team. I sincerely hope I helped make a small difference in the lives of those who have no choice but to go bald. Sriniketh Sundar, Class of 2013 Class of 2013 President There are certain events in our lives that we can point towards and say that it helped define who we are or helped shape who we want to become someday. For me, a defining turning point in my life was the St. Baldrick's event last year. Our activities leading up to the event last year showed an insecure, introvert, and confused medical student that teamwork, dedication, and desire can help accomplish any goal one sets. But just as importantly, it also taught me to open up to others, develop friendships with my colleagues, and have the confidence to pursue any goals I have, regardless of how challenging it may seem. Last year, alongside the difficult task of beginning medical school, my life decided that this was the perfect time to implode on itself. I was secretly dealing with turmoil from various aspects of my life while simultaneously trying to juggle the academic rigors of medical school. This eventually led me to a point where I had shut out the world and was slowly approaching the border of depression. I no longer wanted to socialize or make any meaningful relationships. I just wanted to become a gunner because I thought to myself, after all, aren't the best doctors the most studious and intellectual? All I need to do is study all day, and avoid people...however, as fate would have it, I ended up running into a bunch of students that had a completely different philosophy and approach to life... I need not mention any names because they already know who they are, but a certain group of students collaborated last year and decided that they wanted to bring an unofficial event to NYCOM, the event was St. Baldrick's. At first impression, I was intrigued by the concept of the event, but the cynic in me thought, why would people shave their heads 10 to raise money? I cautiously tip-toed around the edges of the initial planning of the event. After all, this was not an academic endeavor. I was not going to learn about pediatric cancer from this event, was I? However, what I gained from this event were things that could not be duplicated in any form of academics. I was eventually persuaded by my classmates to take part in the event as a volunteer since honestly, there was no way I was shaving my head. I haven't had a hair cut in over two years, and the insecure part of me felt that my hair was my only identity; I was always known as the kid with the long hair! After we set a goal of raising $1000 for Team NYCOM, we set off to promote this event and spread awareness. What happened next is something I could not have imagined. One by one, team NYCOM kept growing. The stories we shared served as a unifying point, and one person would inspire the next and so on. Everyone spread out the responsibilities for setting up the event, and we all did our little parts to help. Be it from making posters, taking pictures, making videos, or even going from faculty member to faculty member in order to spread awareness, we all rallied around each other to support a unified cause. These people, who were just my classmates a few weeks ago, had somehow morphed into my good friends. We had set out to raise $1000 and had raised ten times that amount by the day of the actual event. I had never shared an experience like this in my life, and there is nothing more gratifying than collaborating with friends to accomplish a goal to help others. This experience allowed me the opportunity to reevaluate myself, and see that regardless of how terrible I may have thought my life was previously, I was very fortunate to be blessed with good health and surrounded by such great people. As future physicians, we will someday be given the responsibility of saving people's lives, but along the road to our final goal, we cannot forget to live our own lives as well. Life is not lived within textbooks, nor can this be learned from a textbook. Along with our studies, we have to see what the world is like, how these diseases affect the lives of the people we will eventually be treating, and also see how we can help empower people even outside the scope of medicine. This can only be done if we put our books down once in a while and participate in events such as St. Baldrick's. Although, I am still a little shy and reserved around strangers, I learned to put my apprehensions aside and take part in activities and projects outside of school. This is because the St. Baldrick's event last year made 11 12 Thank you Marwah Ibrahem and Elena Kazlo for capturing the day 13 me realize just how important this was to my growth, not only as a future physician, but as a person as well. I would like to thank everyone who took part in the project last year, as well as those who participated this year too. You all gave me the confidence to join the St. Baldrick's team this year, not as a volunteer, but as a shavee this time. As team captain Gebe George says in his e-mails, I have decided to throw vanity to the wayside and "Brave the Shave". This year, I went bald in support of St. Baldrick's and I couldn't be happier to display my support for pediatric cancer research by showing off my egg-shaped head for everybody to see. My only hope is that St. Baldrick's will live on at NYCOM and future medical students, such as I did myself, will learn that through teamwork, dedication, and a little bit of passion, we can not only accomplish our goals, but also grow as a person. In turn, this will hopefully make us better and more compassionate physicians in the future as well. Piyal Alam, Class of 2014 Fifty years from now when I'm nearing the twilight of my medical career and I reflect on my time spent at NYCOM, my experiences with St. Baldrick's will be among the first memories that come to mind. After having completed nearly two full years at NYCOM I can honestly say that nothing compares to how fun and rewarding this experience has been. During these two rigorous preclinical years of medical school I believe at times it is all too easy to get caught up in the academics and lose sight of our end goal--to help people. St. Baldrick's affords us all a rare opportunity to push the books aside for a bit and focus on doing good for others. By shaving our heads and raising money I really felt that our team made a small impact on the lives of children suffering from cancer. The total amount of money team NYCOM has raised for pediatric cancer in the past two years is nothing short of staggering, and I am very proud to say I have been a part of its growing success. I truly hope that future classes at NYCOM continue to build on this success so that I may continue to return and participate again in the future. T.J. Mulry, Class of 2014 14 St. Baldrick's is one of the greatest causes I have ever been a part of. I honestly can't think of anything more worthy of fundraising than cancer research, especially for kids who have their whole lives ahead of them. Cancer is still a major cause of morbidity and mortality, and the scary thing is that it can affect anyone, including the young and healthy. I see no reason not to shave my head to raise money if it gives even one kid a second chance at living a healthy and happy life. It means that he or she will be able to go on and pursue their dreams, and that is a gift greater than any other. Like many people, I have experienced the devastating effects that cancer can have on individuals and their families. My grandmother was a breast cancer survivor. A cousin of mine slowly lost his mind, and ultimately his life to a brain tumor. One of my best friends lost his father in less than six months to a cancer that, presumably, started in his thyroid and metastasized globally. Their memory, and the memories of the loved ones of my friends and family lost to cancer were a big motivation for me to join St. Baldrick's. I had no inhibitions about becoming a "shavee". I participated with St. Baldrick's last year so I already knew how amazing the feelings would be. It's still a bit of a shock when you first rub your hands over your bald head, but it's encouraging to see dozens of other people braving the shave with you. It's a feeling unlike any other. It may sound a bit self-centered, but the best feeling about being involved with St. Baldrick's for the past two years was the absolute sense of satisfaction I got from the whole experience. It's an amazing feeling knowing my efforts are helping to find a cure and to ease the suffering of those afflicted. There is more, still, that I have taken away from by participation in St. Baldrick's. Raising awareness, and getting others involved gave me a sense of achievement that I was actively involved in the healing of others. It is something medical students long for, but don't get much of in their first two years of training. Finally, the camaraderie and relationships I built with other participants were everlasting personal rewards. Now, I have the great joy of carrying them with me for the rest of my life. Nick Reis, Class of 2014 15 By shaving our heads for St. Baldrick's Foundation, we made a strong statement to the children. We told them that this is not just their fight for survival, but it is our fight against cancer. We share their pain and sufferings by letting go of our vanities. Over the years, I have witnessed my close relatives and friends suffering from cancer. I have seen them going through different phases of treatment. They were physically, mentally and emotionally crippled by both the disease and its treatment. I can attest that their experiences were horrible. Most of them were miserable at times. A few of them even died from the complications of chemotherapy. The reason I joined St. Baldrick's as a "shavee" was to raise money for cancer research and to do something out of the ordinary to brighten the lives of the victims of childhood cancer. By shaving my head, I stood in solidarity with kids suffering from cancer. I believe that I made an impact that went beyond any words. As a team, we raised money for cancer research and awareness about pediatric cancer. Above all, we stood by these kids as friends even though we don't know them individually. Personally, this was one of the most meaningful and memorable events that I was able to take part at NYCOM. Thanks to everyone who participated and made it a huge success. I hope that students and faculty members at NYCOM continue to be involved in these types of events in the future. We have shown our community, that as future doctors, WE DO CARE ABOUT OUR CHILDREN!" Linoj Panicker, Class of 2014 I, like many others, have had a loved one get cancer. It is such a helpless situation to be in as you watch them go through treatment and can only give your support. I remember wishing there was something tangible I could do to help. In 2011, I joined the NYCOM team for St. Baldrick's and it left such a positive impact on me. I met some terrific people and there was such a sense of camaraderie among the team that it really brought the fun into fundraising. Helping raise money for an event like St. Baldrick's, which supports pediatric cancer research, is such a worthwhile event because it helps improve patient outcomes and allows us to feel a little less helpless in the battle against cancer. Conor Parks, Class of 2014 16 My father in law died from lung cancer and both my grandmothers had breast cancer. I decided to join Team NYCOM this year to help others who are trying to find a cure for every patient especially children. I was very pleased to see such a great response to help the cause. I had a proud feeling knowing I was part of a team with a terrific goal. Peter Wimett I met a girl who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2009 while I was working at a hospital. She was only 15, and though she was scared of what the future held, she was still all smiles every time I saw her. It was almost uncanny to me. She was more oprtimistic than I was on most days, and here she was fighting the battle of her life, for her life; the hardest thing I ever had to do up until that point was take the SATs. So during my shifts, I spent some time getting to know her, and we became really good friends, but when I graduated from college and left the area, I slowly lost touch with her. When I joined NYCOM's team, I decided to reach out to her family to see how she was doing. I was so excited to receive an email from her a couple days ago. Not only was she a proud survivor, but it was also her birthday on March 19. And to top it all off, she is graduating from high school in June and looking forward to a medical career herself! So happy birthday Cassie! Your willpower and strength is an inspiration to me, your family, and all of your friends everywhere! I'm really glad being a part of this team gave me a chance to reconnect with a very special friend of mine. Nadia Zaman, Class of 2015 This year for St. Baldrick's I collected donations on behalf of a very close friend of mine who I may have never had the pleasure to meet if there weren't foundations like St. Baldricks raising money for childhood cancer. Due to the efforts of organizations like these my friend can now say that she is a survivor of childhood leukemia. She is able to go to college, get married, and have a family all because she had a wonderful medical team and the support of organizations, friends and family to guide her through her struggles. I'm very proud to say that I participated in this 17 event with so many people campaigning for a great cause. We came together to raise an incredible amount of money, and more importantly raise awareness and provide these children with what they need most sometimes- hope. Anonymous We often hear in medical school, "This disease used to be a death sentence, but now it no longer is." Unfortunately, the word cancer is still synonymous with "death sentence". We as medical students hear about cancer and many deadly diseases that it desensitizes us. However, when it hits so close to your heart, it never is that simple. I wish the pain remained desensitized. My uncle was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 around Thanksgiving. Obviously there was nothing to be thankful for that year. He started his treatment, underwent a prostatectomy, radiation, and follow-ups for nearly two years in REMISSION. I hate to say though that this is no longer the case. As months of chemotherapy took away his youth in days, brought his energy to a low, and sprinkled burden over his life, he still endures with high spirit. The man continues to have faith in God each and every day as he battles for his life. As these days fly by, I continue to see his ego remain in tact, seeing past the physical effects of the drugs, and grow closer to him. However, it isn't always a picture perfect fight, with struggles each day. Our family just wants our happy uncle back soon. Continue to hold him in your prayers. St. Baldrick's and many other organizations try to fight the multitude of cancers out there. However, the reality of it is that cancer can't be cured like an infection. Cancer can't be surgically removed and forgotten about. Cancer CAN be fought though. However, I hope that all of us here at NYCOM, can stand up in front of a class in a few decades and tell our future students, "This disease used to be a death sentence, NOW THERE IS A CURE." Take time and pray for our loved ones that struggle EACH and EVERY DAY. Thank you. Anonymous 18 YOU SIMPLY NEVER KNOW It is always hard to talk about cancer, especially when it is a personal story. So many people have stories about loved ones and have experienced cancer in some way. I myself am no different. I have seen numerous family members battle the disease and fight very hard to cling on to and take back their life. However, the thought never once crossed my mind about what it would feel like to receive the diagnosis myself. I mean, after all, it would never happen to me right? Wrong. I was so very wrong and I will never forget the day my doctor told me I had cancer. I was 20 years old at the time and in my junior year of undergraduate school. I was living the average college student life with no worries or signs of illness. Like most other pre-medical students, I was trying to find volunteer and shadowing opportunities at the nearby hospital and realized that I needed to get a physical exam to do so. It was this physical exam that led to a whirlwind of surprising events. My doctor noticed that my thyroid looked enlarged at my visit and I was really surprised because I look at myself everyday and didn't notice a thing. It wasn't obvious and I had no thyroid abnormalities. To make a long story short, I went for sonograms and a biopsy all the while not actually thinking anything would really be wrong. But then the biopsy results came back. I had cancer. So many questions ran through my mind. How is this possible? Why me? Am I going to be ok? Well luckily for me, my cancer was detected early and according to my doctor was the best cancer you can get if you have to get cancer. At the time I was thinking, Are you kidding me? Is there such a thing as the BEST cancer? I understand now why it is the best and I am extremely grateful for how lucky I was. However, I developed such a great appreciation toward every person who has to hear the words "you have cancer" and fights for every precious moment they have because it is one of the hardest things you ever hear and deal with in life. Being a part of St. Baldricks this year as well as last year is such a blessing. Seeing so many NYCOM students join together and do such a great job raising awareness and money for pediatric cancer research holds a really strong place in my heart. I am glad to be a part of such a wonderful group of people and it is important to remember that your efforts are so important. You simply never know how or when cancer might affect your life or the life of someone you know, and at that time you really appreciate having so many great people fighting in your corner with you. Jodi Zimbler, Class of 2014 19 MY STORY "It would be a miracle if you would survive more than 6 months. There is nothing I can do. You may have a chance on life somewhere else Good Luck." These were the words told to me by my doctor when I was diagnosed with a rare kind of bone tumor. From that point onward, these words were constantly echoing in my mind. I did not know what to make of it, but I knew that life would not be same for me after this point. I read about the five stages of grief (Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance) and the time it takes to go through every stage. However, these stages breezed through in a moment because I was running out of time in life. I was willing to do anything to take back a few precious moments from it to do the things I really wanted to. I wanted to give a bug hug to my mom and thank her for bringing me into this world and nurturing me. I wanted to hold my father's hand tightly and let him know that all of his efforts for making me a better person did not go to waste. I wanted to sing Terry Jack's song to my best friend: "Goodbye to you my trusted friend We've known each other since we were nine or ten Together we've climbed hills and trees Learned of love and ABC's Skinned our hearts and skinned our knees. Goodbye my friend it's hard to die When all the bird's are singing in the sky Now that the spring is in the air Pretty girls are everywhere Think of me and I'll be there. We had joy, we had fun We had seasons in the sun But the hills that we climbed Were just seasons out of time." Fast forward a few years, and a miracle did happen. I survived from this deadly tumor - I was given a second chance on my life. My tumor didn't turn out to be as malignant as the doctors originally thought. However, I still had to go through surgeries and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy was put on hold because my tumor was not growing anymore. I was told that the tumor might go through the malignant transformation at any time in the future. I know I am not the only one who had to go through this. This is the story of every cancer patient. I am one of those lucky ones, who survived to tell the story not only about me, but also about 20 those who did not make it to the other side...their lives were cut short by this deadly disease. Now, every day is a BONUS for me and I am not taking it for granted. I am a survivor, not only of my tumor but also in my personal life. I gained a lot but I had to make lot of sacrifices too. I lost many of my friends who I got to know during my treatment...especially children. They left the biggest impact on me. I still remember my 14-year-old friend who used to give me a "high five" after every visit for his radiotherapy (as if he had defeated some vicious enemy). I recently found out that unfortunately, that mean enemy backstabbed him and took his life away. I can imagine what it feels like when someone loses his/her life to this enemy. Every time I hear this type of news, it helps revive the commitment I made to myself. That commitment was that I would't sit silent and let this vicious enemy walk all over me. Rather, I'll fight back and remove this silent killer from the face of the earth. I don't know how long I'll live because everyone follows the inevitable circle of life...I am no exception. However, this St. Baldrick's event you and your fellow teammates are organizing will give me another platform to fight back. I commend all of you for the EXCELLENT work you've done so far! Please keep fighting, because I don't want to lose another friend to cancer. I know there are many people who would not want to lose me for the very same reason. Anonymous Cancer, I have come to realize, is something that we all have to get comfortable with. It is a disease that surrounds us now, more than ever. I was 7 years old and didn't know what was going on. I remember my grandmother sleeping at our house for a few days, which I later found out, was because she had just had a mastectomy. I remember a hospital bed in her living room and never quite understanding the extent of her illness. I remember our last Thanksgiving dinner together, just 5 days before she passed away. On November 29, 1994, I remember my parents walking through our door and being so excited that my grandfather was sleeping over our house that night. I then remember being devastated after hearing the terrible news. I remember doing one of the first "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" walks at Jones Beach that fol21 lowing October and complaining for the entire five miles because I thought my little legs were going to fall off. June 3, 2004. The date my best friend was diagnosed with cancer. It was Hodgkin's Lymphoma and none of us knew what that meant at the time. All we knew was that she had lost her father to this same cancer. This once foreign disease soon became what defined the summer before our senior year of high school. A seventeen year old never wants to see her best friend bald and it became real to me as I sat next to Kelly in the back of the car. She was telling us that she's had the same braid in her hair for about a week, as every time she touches her head another clump falls out. There were tears in her eyes and a blank look of fear on her face as she struggled to make the best of her situation. July 2, 2010. Just two months and eleven days before my first day of medical school and the day that I heard quite possibly the worst news of my life. My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and this is the last thing I was expecting to hear when my mom called me down to the kitchen to talk to her. I didn't know how to react as I attempted to hold back the tears and stay strong in front of him. As I cried in my bedroom, I was in shock for a variety of reasons. "Lung cancer? But he stopped smoking 20 years ago" I thought to myself. My parents aren't the type to let anything stop them, and I had no idea what the future was going to bring. All I knew was that lung cancer is one of the "worst" cancers to get. He started his first round of chemo on my first day of school, and from there, it has been an on-going battle. However through it all we have remained stronger than ever. Exactly one year later, we found out that he also has prostate cancer. I was volunteering abroad when I got the phone call. The prostate was unrelated to the lung cancer and had actually been around for longer. The doctors decided to make sure everything was resolved with his lung cancer before dealing with his prostate, as lung cancer is a more aggressive disease. He has been receiving hormone shots to keep it dormant and is now starting treatment. I believe that all of this has helped me grow as a person. I have learned to not let these devastating experiences affect my day-to-day life and to not be afraid of "the c-word." I would like to think that I am part of a select few who have been affected in so many ways by cancer, however that is not the reality. Cancer is a disease that that will affect just about all of us at some point in our lives. Through the years, I have witnessed people of all ages diagnosed with this terrible disease and have seen the 22 hurt felt by loved ones. I believe that events, such as St. Baldrick's, are a phenomenal way to raise awareness and raise money for research. Attending the event on Sunday served as such an inspiration. As medical students, it is so easy for us to get caught up in our books, and it is amazing to see so many people come together to support such a great cause. It is my hope that some day soon, cancer will become a thing of the past and will not be something that our future generations will have to worry about. Anonymous "Childhood should be a time of growth and innocence, not fighting for one's life. I hope that this small gesture will help those unfortunate and inspiring children achieve the health we often take for granted." Dr. Isaac Kurtzer, Shavee 2011 "To see children battling cancer makes my day-to-day problems seem so very small. These kids carry a tremendous burden and they need to know they are not alone. It's such a small sacrifice, cutting one's hair and forfeiting vanity for a little while, but it can make a big difference for kids with cancer. I was so proud to be part of the NYCOM team last year, and will help again every chance I get." Dr. Robert Hill, Shavee 2011, 2012 23 The sky was as the kind of sky that showered you with kisses all day as it pleased The sun was the kind of sun that was so proud to be your sun as it showed you off to the moon The people were the kind of people that looked so much better bald than with hair On this day, I saw with my own eyes, heart, and soul, what love looked like, Among strangers Many of those who shaved their heads, shaved in honor of children they never met, Children they will never know But those of you who were there that on that beautiful day know, You didn't have to be our brother, or sister, we didn't need to know you The proud sun, and gushing sky did, and they were there filling your presence, They were there as a reflection of your beauty, your courage, your smile And although we may never cross paths, the love you sent over on that day, That will be enough to keep me coming back every year I love you, stay strong Marwah Ibrahem, Class of 2015 Locks of Love is an extraordinary non-profit organization that helps restore confidence and happiness to children and young adults battling disease. Their mission exemplifies the spirit from which the St. Baldrick's Foundation was born. To participate in their noble cause, please visit these wonderful supporters: Sherry's Hair Salon 275 Glen Street Glen Cove, NY 11542 (516) 277-1419 (516) 674-0182 Hair Above Salon 1 School Street, Suite 4 Glen Cove, NY 11542 (516) 671-9093 Fado Portuguese Cuisine is a generous supporter of Team NYCOM 10 New Street Huntington, NY 11743 (631) 351-1010