Team Portland is spreading awareness, giving and receiving support and raising funds for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults by biking across the country. During the 4K for Cancer led by the cancer support group, the team met a woman who had just been diagnosed with colon cancer. After their meeting, the woman’s husband sent Team Portland a letter to let them know that their visit had completely brightened her day.
“We want to inspire people by cycling across the country. You can see the hope that it creates,” says team member Carly Maylath, who suffered fear and confusion during a cancer scare her sophomore year in college. Fortunately, the lump in her breast turned out to be benign, but Carly wanted to volunteer for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults because she felt it was a good resource for young adults subjected to the emotional and physical consequences of cancer.
Julie Lanahan, Program Coordinator for mission engagement and community outreach and a Patient Navigator at Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, recognized the value of Imerman Angels’ free one-on-one cancer support services when she signed up to become a Mentor Angel.
“I realized that we needed to get the word out about Imerman Angels. We often come across cancer fighters who ask us to connect them with cancer survivors who share similarities like type of cancer, age and treatment. Imerman Angels has the database to make these personalized matches,” Julie says.
Julie schedules 70 days for the various 4K for Cancer teams to ride, with the mileage and routes planned out for each day. The team members also have days off from riding. On some of these days, they are free to spend the day as they please. Other days the team members devote to the mission and service by visiting local hospitals, awarding scholarships or meeting up with other cancer support organizations.
On June 24, Team Portland brought the spirit of the 4K for Cancer to the Imerman Angels offices in Chicago. The group heard Imerman Angels founder Jonny Imerman and CEO Ben Bornstein speak and then headed out with staff members from the one-on-one cancer support organization to raise awareness throughout downtown Chicago. The two groups banded together to pass out Lemonheads — sucking on Lemonheads candies alleviates the metallic taste from chemotherapy – and Imerman Angels Brunch Run 5K and Walk postcards.
“The experience was wonderful. I cried a bit while listening to Jonny. I love the fact that there are organizations like Imerman Angels, so going out there to spread awareness felt especially meaningful on this day,” Carly says.
Much like Imerman Angels, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults was founded by a man who faced, and survived, cancer at a young age. Doug Ulman was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma when he was 19 years old, and diagnosed twice with malignant melanoma within a year of his first diagnosis.
Doug faced challenges during his cancer journey that included dealing with his own mortality, physical activity, questions about nutrition, returning to his studies at Brown University and dating. He discovered there was a lack of emotional cancer care and resources for the unique needs of young adults whose lives had been affected by cancer. This realization led Doug and his family to establish the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.
The organization offers services including the Young Adult (YA) Patient Navigators program, meet ups, publications, scholarships and Cancer to 5K – a free program designed to help cancer survivors become physically active.
“We try to meet the needs of our supports seekers wherever they are in their journey – whether that means after diagnosis, during treatment, after treatment or during survivorship. We do not want anyone to be unable to find resources they need,” Julie says.
In addition to the aforementioned programs and events, the cancer support group leads the 4K for Cancer, which takes place every summer. There are four bike routes that start in Baltimore and end in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego. There are also two running routes that start in San Francisco, with one ending in Baltimore and the other in New York City.
Team Portland started their trip this year on June 5 in Baltimore and should arrive in Portland by August 13. The group bikes between 50 and 120 miles every day that they ride. Families and organizations host the team members for dinner and overnight. Carly reports that they have been the recipients of kind gestures like these along the way.
“We have been very lucky. We have experienced an overwhelming amount of kindness. In addition to being hosted, people that we encounter on the street or in restaurants will see our shirts and donate money,” she says.
Jeff Crock, who became involved with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults in part because his uncle lost his battle with colon cancer, relishes both the uplifting moments and the difficulties Team Portland faces.
“The trip has exceeded my expectations. Every day is full of surprises, but it always works itself out. It has been very challenging mentally, physically and emotionally, but inspiring at the same time. It has been so cool to experience something different,” he says.
Every day that they ride, each team member dedicates that day’s ride to someone. It can be anyone, from a cancer fighter to a fellow team member. The group starts their mornings by standing in a circle holding hands and highlighting the recipient of their dedication and the reason behind their choice.
“We do pretty much everything as a group. My favorite part of the trip has been talking to people along the way. They see us in our biking gear and ask us what we are doing. Sometimes they will share their cancer stories with us,” Jeff says.
Jeff enjoyed visiting the Imerman Angels office and collaborating with the fellow cancer support group to spread awareness.
“It was really cool to see how Imerman Angels works with our organization. I had not known what Imerman Angels was before this and to find out what Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults does in terms of partnerships was great,” he says.
“Days like this show how critical it is that we all work together to support those whose lives have been impacted by cancer,” Julie says.
Learn more about the various resources that Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults offers.
Get free, personalized one-on-one support from a Mentor Angel at Imerman Angels.