WXXI AM News

Nonprofit Serving Young Adult and Teen Cancer Survivors Expands

May 12, 2016

Credit 13thirty Cancer Connection

A local nonprofit that provides support for young people battling cancer is expanding its mission.

13thirty Cancer Connect is the new name of the organization that used to be known as Melissa's Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation.

Executive director Lauren Spiker says the new name reflects the age range of the young adults and teens they're serving.

"Our existing health care systems throughout our country are divided into pediatric medicine and adult medicine, and our teens and young adults fall right into the middle of those two systems, neither of which adequately fulfills their very unique needs."

Spiker says her organization needed to grow to continue to serve young adult clients who were in their teen years when they were first diagnosed with cancer. 

26-year old Brittany Arnold of Greece was diagnosed with bone cancer when she was 15. Now, a 10-year survivor, she's getting ready to run in a 5k on Sunday, thanks to training through the 13thirty's fitness and wellness program.

"The program is basically just rebuilding all of our strength, and most importantly, our confidence, so we are back to who we were before treatment and before cancer, which is really great."

Arnold considers the staff and fellow clients at 13thirty Cancer Connection an extension of her family. When she was fighting cancer as a teen, most of her peers couldn’t relate to what she was going through.

“You know, my friends were worried about what hairstyle they were going to wear on a date, or just passing a final. I was stuck in a hospital, bald, and feeling very low self-esteem at that point.”

The organization is halfway to its $6,000 fundraising goal to support its expansion, thanks to a $3,000 grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Last year, the nonprofit moved into an expanded space at the Al Sigl Community of Agencies on Elmwood Avenue.