Bite Me Cancer celebrates its 5-year anniversary this month with its founder, Nikki Ferraro, who graduated from James Madison University this past May. Ferraro started Bite Me Cancer at 17 years old after being diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer during the spring semester of her junior year of high school.
A week after diagnosis and a month before her surgery, she formed a Relay for Life team — named Bite Me Cancer — and raised $20,000 during the two months leading up to the relay event. Even though Ferraro was beginning her senior year of high school, she was driven to start a foundation to keep the support going to help others; and so Bite Me Cancer became a foundation in September 2010.
One of the main goals for Bite Me Cancer is to raise research funds and awareness for thyroid cancer. Bite Me Cancer has so far funded two research grants and is currently fundraising for its third grant. “When I was diagnosed, there wasn’t even a treatment available for my kind of thyroid cancer. Greater research is needed for better treatment options for all forms of Thyroid Cancer as well as to find a cure or prevention methods. I am so proud of our research accomplishments, but more is definitely needed,” said Ferraro.
The second goal for Bite Me Cancer is to support and inspire teenagers battling cancer. When Ferraro was diagnosed, she didn’t receive specific support for her age group and realized that other teenagers were either sitting in pediatric wards where younger children were receiving the “goodies” or the adult units where nothing was given to the teenagers. She developed teen support bags which contain items to help teenagers pass the time, feel not so alone while they are in hospitals or undergoing treatment, and be inspired. Items include a baseball cap, journal, deck of cards, iTunes gift card, free t-shirt to customize, game book, flash drive with an inspirational video message from Ferraro about her own cancer journey, as well as other Bite Me Cancer items that promote the foundation’s “Attitude is Everything” motto. Bite Me Cancer has partnerships with the INOVA Fairfax Oncology Unit, INOVA Fair Oaks Cancer Center, National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital and almost 40 other hospitals around the country. Since Bite Me Cancer started its Teen Support Bag program in June 2012, the foundation has distributed almost 1,500 bags.
For more information about Bite Me Cancer, visit www.bitemecancer.org.