Survivor Offers Support to Teens With Cancer

A Virginia cancer survivor used her experience as motivation to make treatment easier for others.

Nikki Ferraro was 17 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer. She then found out there weren’t enough support resources geared toward teens with the disease, so she decided to do something about it.

She came up with the idea to hand out support bags to teens in the hospital after spending so much time there herself.

“People would be sending me gifts and stuffed animals and coloring books,” she said. “Obviously, while I appreciated that, it wasn’t really targeted towards me at 17.”

So these goodie bags are designed with teens in mind.

"We have a stress ball, adult coloring book, we have a journal, another thing to kind of pass the time, Sudoku book," Ferraro said.

Eight years after that first idea her organization — Bite Me Cancer! — has taken off.

It hands out bags to patients at 115 hospitals in 45 states.

“It was pretty good to use, like, the cards and games,” one patient said. “They were just good to pass the time.”

“I just want to be able relate to them and know that, like, they’re not in this alone, and I’ve been there, and I want them to be happy when they get it,” Ferraro said.

She's thankful for how the organization has grown, but the most meaningful moments come from her time spent with the patients.

“We had a teen who was diagnosed when she was in high school, and her peers were just so mean to her,” she said tearfully. “They didn’t believe that she actually had cancer … I just remember talking to her and she was telling me that I’m such this light for her … I was just like, ‘Me? I’m inspiring to you?’ And her having to put up with all of that really spoke to me and I was like, ‘Okay, what I’m doing is making a difference, has made a difference.’”

Ferraro said in those moments she feels like her battle with thyroid cancer was worth it.

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