Community Advocates

In order to stay up to date on latest treatments, drug discovery, clinical studies and how to cope with blood cancer every day, Blood-Cancer.com brings you frequent articles, points of view and advice from leading patient advocates and experts.

Current advocates

Racheli Alkobey

Racheli is an inspiring cancer survivor looking to spread awareness on how to fight adversity with positivity and advocating for young adults with cancer. Racheli was diagnosed with Lymphoma at age 21 and video blogged her entire journey in its raw form. She laughs, she dances, she cries and, most importantly, she reminds us that everything is going to be okay. (Read more)

Sierra Asplundh

Sierra was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September 2009 in Richmond, Va. At the time, she was currently enrolled as a full-time student and a collegiate athlete as a member of the Division 1 Field Hockey program.
Sierra decided to go through the majority of her treatment at school while adjusting to a part-time enrollment status, and redshirting for the remainder of her sophomore season. Upon completion of six rounds of ABVD chemotherapy, Sierra was given her remission status in May 2010 and is currently 8 years deep of living in remission. (Read more)

Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo

Yolanda is founder of Spitfir Productions brand development catering small businesses. She holds many hats as an entrepreneur: Author, Fashion Editor, Production Product Developer, Stylist, and Branding Strategist. Yolanda is a graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC; she holds degrees in Marketing as well as Merchandising. Yolanda is also the Founder and Executive Director of Mae’s Breath Foundation 501c (3) a lung cancer awareness organization which promotes and provides information to the community on lung wellness. Yolanda exudes advocacy when it comes to health and awareness, this young spitfire – hence the name of her business (dropping the “E”) is also a myeloma survivor diagnosed in her thirties. She has used her voice by writing and speaking of her experience with this condition, which faces a higher percentage of many Black people. (Read more)

Cynthia “MyelomaTeacher” Chmielewski

Cynthia (Cindy) Chmielewski attended Rutgers University graduating with degrees in Psychology and Education. Upon her graduation Cynthia secured her first teaching position and immediately fell in love with her chosen profession. Cynthia continued teaching for 28 years until she retired in 2009. In July 2008 Cynthia was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, after suffering for two years with debilitating back pain which was wrongly attributed to degenerative disc disease. Treatment with a stem cell transplant and targeted therapies put Cynthia’s cancer in a very good partial remission. She continues myeloma treatment with a maintenance therapy protocol and is enjoying an excellent quality of life. (Read more)

Scott Christiansen

Scott resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and best friend of 32 years and their two children. After a 22 year career in construction and real estate, culminating as a V.P. of Real Estate for an international day care franchisor, Scott embarked on a radical career change and followed a life long dream to be a professional chef and baker. He enjoyed his second career for another 13 years and was in the final stages of preparing to open a food cart when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in December, 2017 (Read more)

Elle Crofton

Elle is 30 years old and currently resides in Philadelphia, PA and is just getting back into the swing of everything after her stem cell transplant in 2015. After graduating from Temple University with a B.S. in Elementary Education, Elle was the founding teacher for a preschool in Center City. Less than a year into her first job as a teacher, Elle was constantly sick – but she chalked it up to being a first year teacher because every teacher will tell you the first year is your immune building year! Unfortunately for Elle, this was not the case and she was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome deletion 5q. (Read more)

Matt Goldman

Matt was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma on May 2, 2001 at the age of 49. He had been feeling sick for several months leading up to the diagnosis, experiencing fatigue, fevers and night sweats. Eventually he was hospitalized because of severe anemia. During that stay he was diagnosed with Myeloma, an incurable, but treatable blood cancer. Matt had 4 different chemo regimens in less than a year, before arriving at one that was able to bring the cancer under control. (Read more)

Vincent Goodwin

Vincent was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in 2003 at the age of 15 years old. Born March 4th, 1988 he is currently celebrating his 30th birthday by road-tripping across North America to raise awareness. Because his mother worked for the University of Penn healthcare system, he was treated at one of the best Children’s Hospitals in the world. One thing that made the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania so great is the community that Vincent felt from all of the staff from volunteer to doctor. As an only child to a single mother, having that community of people who were caring, encouraging, supportive and driven was really important in shaping him as a 15 year old junior in high school. (Read more)

Ronni Gordon

Ronni Gordon is a Western Massachusetts-based freelance writer and former newspaper reporter writing about many of the same topics she covered in the Arts and Living sections, focusing on health and fitness, running and tennis, theater, and general interest features. Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2003, she has had four stem cell transplants over a period of six years. She is officially cured but has chronic after effects including peripheral neuropathy, a susceptibility to squamous cell skin cancers, and graft vs. host disease. (Read more)

Crystal Harper

Crystal Harper is a broadcast meteorologist for the ABC station in Norfolk, VA. She has been predicting the weather since 2010 and loves what she does. Only six months after starting her new broadcasting job in Virginia, Crystal was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May 2017. (Read more)

Christina Hegarty, PT, DPT

Christina is a doctor of physical therapy currently licensed and practicing in Mississippi. Christina is a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where she was born and raised. She obtained her bachelor degree in exercise science from the University of Mississippi in 2011 and her doctorate degree in physical therapy from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2014. After finishing school, Christina worked as a traveling physical therapist in Texas and Pennsylvania, when she met her husband, who is also a physical therapist. (Read more)

Shane Lee

Shane Lee is a manager at Mena, AR Pizza Hut. Shane has worked in Law Enforcement of various departments for 4 years, Volunteer Fire Dept. and EMS EMT First Responder for 13 years before Pizza Hut. In March 2018, Shane was diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) at 56 yrs old. He is currently in Remission after 2 1/2 months of chemotherapy. (Read More)

Robert Lewis

Rob is a 30 year old Captain in the United States Army and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering. Rob lives in El Paso, Texas with his wife, Sarah, two year old daughter and newborn son. (Read more)

Amber Lynch

Amber Lynch is currently a Resident Reporter for Myers Park Life Magazine, a Freelance Writer, and a blogger at MagnoliaMusings.blog. Raising three young sons keeps her busy, but grounded. Her recent diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has created a renewed sense of faith and purpose seeking wellness and living an optimal life. She is hopeful that by sharing her experience as a Contributor to blood-cancer.com others with the same struggle may know they are not alone. As a cancer warrior she hopes to provide some insight into this journey we are on together.( Read more.)

Daniel P. Malito

Daniel has been writing about this absurd disabled life he lives for over ten years now. It all started wen he was just nine years old with a mysterious flu-like illness that took two years to diagnose. In the end, doctors agreed to call his disease Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (now JIA), but the truth is he never fully conformed to the accepted pathology of his illness. Because of this, Daniel endured years of hardship while the medical community searched for a remedy, and when one was finally found twenty-five years later, the damage had already been done. Recently, Daniel was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (Read more)

Terrilyn McCormick

Terrilyn McCormick was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in 2015. It all started on Labor Day when abdominal pain landed her in the ER thinking she likely had gallstones. A CT scan revealed swollen lymph nodes throughout her abdomen and back. After several more months of feeling fatigued, continued abdominal pain, weight loss and surgery to biopsy a lymph node, she received a diagnosis of Follicular Lymphoma – a slow growing but incurable form of lymphoma. (Read more)

Carole McCue

Carole McCue is an RN with over 45 years of nursing experience. She earned her RN from the Cochran School of Nursing and her BS and MS degrees from Pace University in Pleasantville, NY. She has achieved national certifications in her specialty areas of intensive care nursing (CCRN), quality improvement (CPHQ), and nursing education (CNE). Carole has served as Chief Nursing Officer of an acute care facility and has authored publications and presented at national conferences. (Read more)

Bob McEachern

Bob McEachern was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma in 2008. After a summer of unshakeable bronchitis that turned to pneumonia, a chest scan showed swollen lymph nodes that were given a 10% chance of being cancer. A few months later, a swollen node in his hip was biopsied, and that 10% chance turned into 100%. Follicular Lymphoma, a subtype of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma, is indolent (slow-growing) and incurable (but treatable). Like many FL patients, Bob chose to “watch and wait” after diagnosis, holding off treatment for two years until the swollen hip nodes resulted in lymphedema in his leg. Two years to the day of his diagnosis, he had the first of six rounds of a monoclonal antibody. (Read more)

Michael Padjen

Mike lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife Sue and his service dog Fynn (Find Your New Normal). He also writes for and maintains his own blog effcancerblog, where he talks about the ups and downs of living with a blood cancer and its effects on faith, family, and everyday life. (Read more)

Alison Petok, MSW, LCSW, MPH

Alison Petok is an oncology social worker; she received her Master in Social Work and Master in Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in oncology research and currently serves as a clinical social worker in the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University. In her current role she serves as the palliative medicine social worker, provides clinical services to patients and families, mentors current MPH students, and manages biopsychosocial screening programs. (Read more)

Lora Rhodes, MSW, LSW

Lora received her BS in psychology from Penn State University and MSW from Rutgers University. A social worker for over 25 years, she returned to clinical work in 2014 at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, where she began her career in oncology social work in 1996. In her current role she provides support services to patients from young adults to seniors. She provides psychosocial support in the multidisciplinary senior adult oncology, head and neck cancer, and cancer genetics clinics, and is a member of the lung, head and neck, genitourinary clinical teams. (Read more)

Katie Ruane

Katie was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia on Friday 19th January 2007, whilst studying History of Art at the University of Edinburgh aged 22. To date, she has lived with blood cancer for just over 11 years. Katie is rare with both her diagnosis – most diagnosed with CML are male and over 40, and her age at diagnosis. Anyone diagnosed with cancer in the UK aged between 16-24 as a teenage young adult (TYA) is automatically rare. As an ‘ignored’ middle child, Katie quite enjoys the fact that her diagnosis is doubly rare. It would seem that nothing Katie does is ever ‘normal’. (Read more)

Jim Smith

Jim is a writer/photographer in Washington State. He was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in September 2009. Before retiring Jim worked in marketing as a commercial photographer, writer, graphic designer, and videographer/editor. Jim’s CLL is progressing gradually and, although he gets tired more often and takes things slower, he hasn’t yet needed any treatments. He still does some photography and writing as energy allows. (Read more)

James Speidel

Cancer has drastically changed James outlook on life. Before cancer, he was like many fathers and husbands; striving to provide for his wife and family and plan for the future. With the future now much less certain, James is focused on getting the most of every day, every interaction and every relationship. He’s made a bucket list and began working through it. One major bucket list item he completed this past summer was hiking Angel’s Landing in Zions National Park in southern Utah. If you aren’t familiar with that trail, go search it on YouTube. James also enjoys his wife, kids, extended family, building things, fixing things (cars and motorcycles), driving sports cars, riding motorcycles, backpacking, weightlifting, cycling, running and just about anything else that gets him outdoors, going fast, or both! (Read more.)

Susan Strong

Susan offers hope and a unique perspective as a long-term thriver. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma 35+ years ago, the summer after she graduated from high school. After treatment, she went on to live her life: college, careers in communications and teaching, and a family of her own. A few years ago, Susan discovered that she had aortic stenosis from radiation treatment. The existence of late effects from cancer treatment was an unexpected punch in the gut. She is currently finishing treatment for radiation-induced breast cancer. Susan is now an advocate for long-term cancer survivors, providing information, support, and inspiration to others.(Read more)

Former advocates

Hong Donaldson

Hong Donaldson is a proud mother to three beautiful and kind young adults, and wife to her best friend of 33 years, Thayer Donaldson. She is a CPA living in Wayne, NJ. The love and support of a close-knit family is her most valued gift. She feels very fortunate and blessed in so many ways. Today, she is most grateful for her family’s good health, especially her husband’s. (Read more)

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