Natalie & Brian Berry (Atlanta)
Natalie, a dance teacher in the Atlanta area, received a bone marrow transplant, after being diagnosed with “Aplastic Anemia” in her 30s. Her husband, Brian, is a pharmacist and served as Natalie’s primary caregiver and adviser during her treatment. As a mother with two young children to care for during her illness, chemotherapy, and transplant, Natalie faced the same challenges familiar to young adult cancer patients everywhere. Natalie shares, “it is nice to be alive and in a position to help others as they walk through a difficult time. I wish there had been a Boon Project around for my family.” Brian and Natalie look forward to serving as ambassadors to other young adults whose treatment leads them to the Atlanta area.
Andy & Lauren Castleon Thelow (Baltimore)
Andy is a stage III malignant melanoma survivor who has received treatment at Mercy Hospital and Johns Hopkins as well as consultations at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. His wife and primary caregiver, Lauren, shares why they are excited to serve as Boon Ambassadors for young adults who may be travelling to their medical community for a second opinion or to participate in a study. “I want to be able to help give back to those that are fighting this terrible disease. I want to help others who are overwhelmed when they hear the awful word. It is my hope that we can connect with others in the area that are going through the similar battles. It's like an invisible thread that connects what is hard to put into words - the endless anxiety and turmoil. Far and above any physical battles, the emotional and mental battle is torture. Having others that are experiencing this has helped Andy and me so much. I'm hoping that we can be there for others just as Katherine and Susan have for us.”
Lisa McKenna (Houston)
Lisa McKenna has an extensive background of volunteer work with various organizations, but is especially excited to play the role of “ambassador” for The Boon Project. As a brain tumor survivor, Lisa has walked the road of second opinions, exploring options, surgeries, and radiation. Living in the same state as one of the top cancer research hospitals in the world, Lisa is available to serve as a local ambassador to young adults whose treatment might lead them to her area for treatment.
Hannah Neimy (Charleston)
Hannah Neimy is a Hodgkins Lymphoma (stage III) survivor, diagnosed while pursuing a pre-med degree at The College of Charleston. Still actively seeking that degree, Hannah is also passionate about helping other young adults navigating the complicated and often times overwhelming cancer fight. She received treatment at MUSC and is available as a contact for those traveling to Charleston from other areas to seek treatment. Hannah hopes to earn a medical degree from MUSC in the coming years.
Amelia Sholar (Raleigh-Durham)
Amelia is a young adult cancer survivor, excited to pay it forward to others in the young adult cancer fighting community, who find themselves seeking treatment in her area. She shares that, “cancer has been a part of my family life affecting many of my family members since I was a child. When I was diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome and the same colon cancer that my dad and his mom had, I was able to draw from their strength and positive attitudes that they maintained during their experiences believing that whatever the outcome, I could make the best of it just like they did. I hope to bring this same energy and optimism to the Boon Project.”
Joe & Meagan Verelli (NYC)
In 2015, Joe was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma. His best option for treatment was an immunotherapy drug trial, but, like many young adults fighting cancer, Joe was underinsured. His insurance would not cover the new treatment, so his girlfriend (now wife) Meagan became his advocate and fundraiser. Because of the trial, Joe now celebrates clear scans! Joe and Meagan know all too well the fear and challenges that come with a young adult cancer fight and are excited to use their experience to help guide others through the overwhelming process.
A cancer diagnosis is scary and overwhelming, and that is only magnified when patients’ treatment plans take them far from home. Enter, the Boon Ambassadors. Our Boon Ambassadors have all walked the cancer (or allied disease) road as young adults and are ready to help you feel at home when you are away from home for treatment. If you plan to seek a second opinion, treatment, or enroll in a clinical trial away from the Lowcountry, please contact The Boon Project so we can help get you in touch with a Boon Ambassador near your hospital. If you are traveling to the Charleston area from out of town to seek treatment at MUSC/Hollings Cancer Center, please contact us as well. We have a local ambassador for you. Whether it’s help planning the logistics of your trip, or simply company at the hospital in an unfamiliar city, Boon Ambassadors are here to help! *Boon Ambassadors have no official affiliation with the hospitals mentioned, other than as patients or former patients. Our ambassadors are available to serve as hometown guides for patients in the process of seeking treatment in their city. They are not medical professionals.