Nikki was diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer in April 2010 when she was a junior at Chantilly High School in Virginia. From the very beginning, Nikki was determined to leverage her diagnosis for good. Within two weeks of her diagnosis she formed a Relay for Life team, which she named “Bite Me Cancer” and experienced an outpouring of support and fundraising success. When Nikki decided to create a foundation a few months later, she wanted to continue the legacy of her team name; and thus her foundation became Bite Me Cancer.
She wanted the foundation to focus on 2 goals:
(1) to support and inspire teenagers battling all cancers (2) to directly fund thyroid cancer research.
Goal 1: Teens with cancer fall through the cracks for needed support between the younger pediatric services and the adult services. Nikki wanted to let them know they weren’t alone and that she understood so she developed a Teen Support Bag with all items in the bag selected for teenagers.
Goal 2: Thyroid cancer continues to be one of the most increasing cancers in the US, yet successful treatments haven’t been available for many versions of this cancer. Nikki wanted to have Bite Me Cancer directly fund research grants.
Nikki continues to lead Bite Me Cancer. She is not only a survivor, she is an overcomer. She graduated from high school, graduated from college and has continued to hold a full-time job. She has taken daily oral chemo since 2014 and lives her life with passion, intention and fun!
Creating the Foundation
Following the Relay in the summer of 2010, Nikki told her parents that she wanted to keep the Bite Me Cancer name alive to continue her focus of supporting teenagers fighting all cancers and directly funding thyroid cancer research grants. Once again Nikki pushed her parents, who were concerned about the time and financial commitment a new foundation would require, especially given their on-going focus on their daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. But Nikki prevailed, and the foundation was created. Nikki jumped in on every aspect of forming a foundation, from establishing the mission and goals, to understanding and executing the legal processes, to designing the logo and layout of the new foundation’s website.
Nikki and her parents are grateful for all the pro bono consultants (legal, financial, web design), volunteers, board members and advisory council members who made it possibly to form that foundation, and whose continued support is ensuring Bite Me Cancer’s on-going success.
The Relay for Life Experience
Nikki decided to lead a Relay for Life team within a week of her diagnosis! Within three days of setting up her Relay team online, Nikki raised $5,000. This was exciting news as she was preparing for surgery just a few weeks later. Thirty friends joined her team and she was humbled by the help and enthusiasm so many brought to the relay effort. Her godmother ordered bracelets to hand out (with the team name on them and with thyroid cancer colors), and Nikki designed two t-shirts that were sold to raise money. Nikki and her team ended up raising over $22,000!
Despite the hesitancy of her parents, who were not in favor of Nikki participating in the relay, much less leading a team so soon after having surgery to treat the cancer, Nikki’s team finished in first place when The American Cancer Society closed the books.
Nikki also finished first as the individual fundraiser at the event and she was the #1 online individual fundraiser for the 8-state South Atlantic Region of American Cancer Society. “The Relay for Life experience was amazing!” said Nikki. This experience inspired her desire to keep the support going and to start the Bite Me Cancer Foundation.
(Photo includes Ken Plum, Virginia delegate holding a Virginia State Resolution congratulating Nikki on her fundraising efforts and her foundation success. Photo also includes Sully District representative Michael Fry.)