After delivering her baby brother, 12-year-old Jacee Dellapena decided she wanted to be an OB-Gyn. These dreams are not so uncommon. For 24-year-old Montana Brown, realizing her dream of becoming a nurse doesn’t seem simple at all. A two-time cancer survivor, Brown decided she would pay it forward in the very hospital she was treated in.
When she was 2 years old, Brown was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of childhood cancer of the connective tissue. She underwent chemotherapy for a year at the AFLAC Cancer Center.
Brown had gone into remission, only to later find out, at the age of 15, that her cancer had returned. The same nurses that cared for her 13 years prior were once again by her side. Brown has since expressed her deepest gratitude for their compassion.
“The nurses here, as great as they were when I was 2… they were extremely loving and caring and compassionate. And, just the love they showed me and my family in our time of need just really helped me,” she said. “It helped me want to become as kind and as caring and as compassionate as they were for me.”
Brown has come full circle and is now a pediatric oncologist at the AFLAC Cancer Center. I suppose that sometimes, the best way to pay it forward is to have a look back.
In the midst of tragedy, celebrities have been using their fame to give back to struggling communities. With big guns like José Andrés cooking up a storm for hurricane survivors, Hollywood stars have a lot to prove. However, one familiar face on top of his philanthropy game is Leonardo DiCaprio. After a stint saving African lions, Leo teamed up with on-screen flame Kate Winslet to save a cancer patient.
“I phoned Leo and I said, ‘Do you think we could do a charity dinner or something?’” Winslet [said]. “And he said… ‘Come with me to St. Tropez, to my big fundraiser for the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation,’ which is back in July, ‘and we will auction off a dinner with Jack and Rose.’”
The Titanic stars raised $1.35 million for patient Gemma Nuttall, who lacked $98,000 in funds for treatment. The new mom underwent chemotherapy just weeks after birthing her daughter. The film giants are also sending Nuttall to Germany for further specialist treatment.
“I just want to say thank you so much for all your hard work and [helping] me being able to have my treatment that I really did need,” Nuttall said… “You saved my life and I just want you to know that.”
If Leo and Kate can save the silver screen from a rise in awful B-movies, surely a life is no big deal.
Moderna’s personalized cancer vaccine may be a leap towards a cure, but the wait is long from over. Until then, a select few have been making life more comfortable for cancer sufferers. Zach Bolster, a former hedge fund vice president, is the founder of ChemoCars — a ride service for chemo patients.
“My family was shocked by how many cancer patients had difficulty getting to their chemotherapy treatments. We soon realized what a huge financial and family burden transportation during cancer treatments can be. Some patients resorted to riding the bus, others, unfortunately, missed their treatment altogether.”
Inspired by his late mother, a victim of pancreatic cancer, Bolster and his wife Patricia have offered over 2,000 free rides. Many users have become regulars, avoiding the hassle of buses and transportation expenses.
“ChemoCars gives patients a chance to do something for themselves. They rely so much on family that this means they can use family or friends for other things and – not for the daily chore of getting treatment,” [nurse Pam Gwaltney says.]
Though business-minded, Bolster doesn’t see dollar signs on the horizon. ChemoCars has become a tribute to his mother and a symbol of hope for many.