Meet Nikki Ferraro, a student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, who was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer in the spring of her junior year at Chantilly High School. Soon after her diagnosis and a month before her surgery, Nikki formed the “Bite Me Cancer” Relay for Life team for the Vienna, VA Relay event for the American Cancer Society. She was the top individual fundraiser for that event as well as the #1 online fundraiser for the entire South Atlantic Region (VA, DC, MD, WV, DE, NC, SC, GA) of the American Cancer Society. After that event, Ferraro persuaded her parents to form a non-profit called Bite Me Cancer in September 2010. Ferraro also led a successful Bite Me Cancer Relay for Life team in May of 2011, just before graduation from high school.
WashingtonExec has interviewed Ferraro before (you can see the interview here). We recently had an opportunity to follow up with her about Bite Me Cancer and the progress it has made since.
WashingtonExec: How is your medical situation been going since June 2011?
Nikki Ferraro: I’m doing great! My doctor at Johns Hopkins is an expert with my rare cancer, and even he has been happily amazed that I’m doing so well. I’ve had two recent series of scans, July 2011 and December 2011, and both times there was no new cancer found. A few small suspicious spots have remained stable with no growth since the summer of 2010. Also, two small suspicious spots have shrunk which were being watched for about 18 months (so they aren’t cancer). We have been so happy.
WashingtonExec: How did you feel about going away to college – especially almost 2 hours away from home?
Nikki Ferraro: I begged my parents to let me go to JMU! At first, they wanted me to attend George Mason University because I would be close to my doctors at Johns Hopkins. I was accepted to all the colleges that I applied to, some further away than JMU. I did like GMU, but I told my parents that I wanted to force myself to learn how to take care of myself and my medical condition on my own. Living close to home would have made it too easy to have my parents help me. I’m having a great time at JMU, and I really enjoy being a marketing major.
WashingtonExec: What is Bite Me Cancer working on these days? Are there 2012 goals?
Nikki Ferraro: We had our 2012 Kick-Off Meeting on January 5, 2012. I announced our new campaign called $50K for 50K. We want to raise $50,000 because, with that amount of money, Bite Me Cancer can sponsor one of the special 2-year new research grants that are focused on new treatment options.
Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the country, and there will be over 50,000 people diagnosed with it this year. That’s how I came up with “$50K for 50K” theme. Actually, the night before our kick-off, the American Cancer Society announced their prediction of a very high 17% increase with 56,460 individuals being diagnosed this year. That is way too high, and we want to help figure this cancer out before the numbers reach the hundreds of thousands.
Also, we are developing some activities to focus on early detection and to make people aware of how serious thyroid cancer can be. There are so many variations of this cancer and not many treatment options. Many younger people are being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and often it has spread outside the thyroid because of late diagnosis.
I really want to help to support teens with cancer in general too. I didn’t find opportunities to talk with other teens with cancer when I was diagnosed. With the Bite Me Cancer attitude, I’d like to help teens be inspired to have a positive attitude and do great things. We are putting some ideas together now for our 2012 projects. We do receive many requests for our Bite Me Cancer wristbands, t-shirts and other items with the logo on it; and I love that teens and even adults want to wear and display the attitude. Our CafePress store helps distribute many of our items which can be found on our homepage.
I’m also hoping that maybe I can even have a foundation fundraising activity at JMU, but we have to investigate the possibilities.
WashingtonExec: Can people still get involved with Bite Me Cancer?
Nikki Ferraro: Definitely! I’m so lucky to have a great board of directors who are so supportive, and we are actually looking for more board members. We also have an advisory council of about 25 people so far who want to help out in a variety of ways, like being on committees, sharing their expertise and/or passion, networking for us, etc. People can email us at email@example.com if they would like to get involved.