• In the News

    13thirty Cancer Connect – In the News

    For media inquiries and collaborations, contact Caroline Seaberg at caroline@13thirty.org!


    Talk About the Elephant (Talk About Cancer Podcast with Serena Hu)
    October 21, 2021
    Lauren shared what it was like to follow her daughter Melissa’s lead in having open conversations about end-of-life wishes, which gave Lauren a path forward during grief and led to the founding of 13thirty Cancer Connect to support thousands of AYA cancer patients.

    USA Today Network awards thousands to 4 Upstate New York Nonprofits
    October 5, 2021
    Four Upstate New York nonprofit organizations have each been awarded at least $5,000 through A Community Thrives, a grant-making and crowd-funding program from the USA Today Network.

    Grassroots group helps teens, young adults battle cancer
    October 4, 2021
    It all started with a promise between a mother and her daughter. As Melissa Sengbusch battled acute myeloid leukemia from 1998 to 2000, she told her mother, Lauren Spiker, that “if you have learned anything from me through all of this, do something with it to make a difference – to make things better.”

    Episode 39: 13thirty Cancer Connect with Lauren Spiker and Steve Esposito (That Sounds Terrific Podcast with Nick Koziol)
    September 9, 2021
    Teens and young adults have many challenges in this world. They are starting things like high school, college, and their first real job. The stress of peer pressure alone can be enough to make some crumble. Add a cancer diagnosis and this group can often find themselves isolated and unsure of where to turn.

    Gannett’s Community Thrives grans can help nonprofits in Rochester
    August 1, 2021
    13thirty Cancer Connect and Hope Hall School have applied for the annual Gannett Foundation’s A Community Thrives annual grant-making and crowdfunding program. The nonprofits each have begun fundraising campaigns that will continue through August 13.

    Coping with Cancer Magazine Exclusive National Cancer Survivors Day 2021 Coverage
    July 28, 2021
    Founder Lauren Spiker and board president and 13thirty parent Charlie Cote strike a pose before 13thirty Cancer Connect’s Annual Bandana Bolt 5K at Seneca Park on National Cancer Survivors Day.

    The New IT Podcast
    May 26, 2021
    Chuck Ray from Nazareth College discusses the journey of keeping the show on the road amidst the course of a pandemic. And in our nonprofit spotlight, we feature Lauren Spiker from 13thirty Cancer Connect, a local organization focusing on helping young adults with cancer, lead their best lives.

    Mindex Helps Support Teens and Young Adults Fighting Cancer with Donation Pledge to 13thirty Cancer Connect
    May 6, 2021
    Mindex, a local Rochester technology leader in software development and professional services, has pledged a generous donation to 13thirty Cancer Connect and their programs helping teens and young adults with cancer live their best lives.

    Offering support for young adults with cancer
    April 19, 2021
    Approximately 82,000 young people are impacted by cancer, and they fall into a gap. They are not considered pediatric cases, or they’re not quite in that older demographic. 13thirty Cancer Connect steps in, focusing on offering support and resources to adolescents and young adults.

    One of 13WHAM’s own shaving head to help 13thirty Cancer Connect
    January 21, 2021
    One of 13WHAM’s own is shaving his head for a good cause. Steve Synesael is raising money to benefit 13thirty Cancer Connect, which supports young people affected by cancer. Steve joined us on Good Day Rochester before and after shaving his head to explain why it’s important to him.


    Rochester Fire Department 2021 calendar proceeds to benefit 13thirty Cancer Connect
    December 17, 2020
    The Rochester Fire Department is giving back to a local organization that helps teens and young adults battling cancer. They’re selling calendars again this year and the proceeds go to 13thirty Cancer Connect.

    Firefighters’s personal story connects calendar to cause
    December 11, 2020
    The Rochester Fire Department is heating things up again with their 2021 calendar. The new calendar supports a cause close to the heart of one firefighter. You will find firefighter Jim Blaesi’s story inside the cover of the new RFD Calendar.

    Syracuse Cancer Support Groups Form Alliance in Hopes of ‘Serving Community Better’
    November 25, 2020
    New York moms Lauren Spiker and Frieda Weeks share the grief of losing a child to cancer. This month, Spiker, Weeks and other cancer support organizations launched a new partnership to pool resources. The group is called CNY Cancer Alliance. 

    Rochester cancer fundraiser nearly doubles initial goal
    May 22, 2020
    One local cancer fundraiser has nearly doubled its initial goal. 13thirty Cancer Connect launched its $20K / 20 Day Challenge fundraiser at the start of the month to celebrate 20 years of making a difference.

    13thirty celebrates 20 years of connecting young people battling cancer
    May 7, 2020
    Melissa Sengbusch was a high school senior when she received the devastating news that she had a rare bone marrow malignancy, becoming another statistic in the fight against childhood cancer.
    Not a Rochester Business Journal subscriber? View the article here.

    13thirty Cancer Connect: Empowering Young Adults with Cancer
    January 22, 2020
    After her daughter’s passing in 2001, Lauren Spiker founded 13thirty in Rochester, NY with Melissa’s request in mind. The nonprofit organization provides support to young people with cancer through programs and events.

    Rochester Nonprofit 13thirty Cancer Connect turns 20
    January 20, 2020
    A local nonprofit with the mission of helping teens and young adults battling cancer celebrated a huge milestone Monday. When 13thirty Cancer Connect started decades ago, the first pancake breakfast took place in founder Lauren Spiker’s kitchen.



    Rochester-Area Officers Grow Beards for Cancer Patients and Fallen Officer Manny Ortiz
    December 30, 2019
    Officers from the Rochester Police Locust Club and other area law enforcement personnel grew beards through November as part of a unique fundraiser called Beards for Bucks. Officers were allowed to grow facial hair for a good cause. Adam Devincentis, secretary of the Rochester Police Locust Club, says officers are not normally allowed to grow beards while on duty and in uniform.

    Local law enforcement agencies help the fight against cancer
    December 10, 2019
    Two Central New York law enforcement agencies came together for Cops Against Cancer to stand as a community in the fight against cancer. The Syracuse Police Department donated proceeds from their Pink Shield October and No Shave November efforts to 13thirty Cancer Connect while the Liverpool Police Department participated in Beards for Bucks. That’s a joint fundraiser that supports teen and young adult programs at 13thirty Cancer Connect and helps with critical cancer research at Roswell Park.

    13thirty Cancer Connect opens Syracuse-area location
    July 11, 2019
    A Rochester-based organization that helps adolescents and young adults with cancer live their best lives has now opened a Syracuse-area location. 13thirty Cancer Connect has been home to hundreds of teens and young adults with cancer since 2001.

    USA TODAY NETWORK awards thousands to local nonprofits, including 13thirty Cancer Connect
    July 11, 2019
    Rochester nonprofit 13thirty Cancer Connect has been awarded $44,000 through A Community Thrives, a grant-making and crowd-funding program from the USA TODAY NETWORK.

    Community center for teens, young adults with cancer opens doors to Syracuse location
    July 8, 2019
    A new resource for teens and young adults diagnosed with cancer is coming to Syracuse this month, and it is dedicated to two teens who found support when they needed it most.


    Benefit concert focused on teens and young adults living with cancer
    December 30, 2018
    Anthology hosted a very special concert on Sunday, geared specifically towards helping teens and young adults with cancer live their best lives. Eight bands representing the best of the Rochester music scene, in addition to raffles made possible by area businesses were all a part of a vision by the organizer, Charlie Cote.

    Supporting the ‘lost tribe:’ 13thirty Cancer Connect awarded $25,000 grant from Gannett
    August 1, 2018
    The nonprofit received a $25,000 A Community Thrives grant from Gannett to be used for operating costs. After the organization raised $57,000 in a crowdfunding campaign, 13thirty was one of the four fan favorites selected in a 2018 contest.

    13thirty fills the gap
    April 5, 2018
    13thirty Cancer Connect is hoping to secure a large grant to assist its mission of helping teens and young adults diagnosed with cancer find peer support.


    RPD officers shave beards to support kids fighting cancer
    November, 30, 2017
    You may have seen stories about going Bald for Bucks. 
    But what about Beards for Bucks? Rochester Police officers had their beards shaved Thursday to raise money for 13thirty Cancer Connect.

    13thirty Cancer Connect supports teens, young adults with cancer
    July 30, 2017
    Walls of vivid blue with bright orange, deep red, and lime green accents greet visitors to 13thirty Cancer Connect, a support group for teens and young adults living with cancer. 

    Bald for Bucks raising money to help young people with cancer
    March 7, 2017
    Senior Mel White accepted the role of the Brockport coordinator of Goin’ Bald For Bucks, a fundraising campaign which accepts donations for the organization 13thirty, an organization which focuses on a demographic of cancer patients between the ages of 13 and 30.


    Parkhill honored for work with 13thirty Cancer connect
    November 10, 2016
    Dr. Amy Parkhill, associate professor in the St. John Fisher College Wegmans School of Pharmacy, was honored with the Make a Difference Award from 13thirty Cancer Connect, a regional non-profit that provides support for adolescents and young adults impacted by cancer. 

    Flaherty’s charity golf tournament raises $5,000 for 13thirty Cancer Connect
    September 22, 2016
    This year’s Flaherty’s Charity Golf tournament held at the Lima Golf and Country Club, July 10th was a huge success with donations adding up to $5000 to be donated to 13thirty Cancer Connect.

    13thirty shines light on young people fighting cancer
    September 14, 2016
    About 300 people attended an exclusive screening event hosted by 13thirty Cancer Connect at St. John Fisher College Wednesday night. 13thirty is a support group for adolescents and young adults.

    Fairport woman relates to inspirational cancer documentary coming to Rochester
    September 3, 2016
    Cat Gawronski, 23, was in the middle of her second year of college last year when she began feeling really sick. “I remember having a cough starting in January right after my birthday, actually, of that year and people kept telling me ‘you’re fine, it’s just a virus,’ you know, ‘you’re a college student, you’re going to get better, you’re just not resting enough,’ but I kind of felt like deep down that something was really wrong,” Gawronski said.

    Thousands run in Color Run for 13thirty Cancer Connect
    May 21, 2016
    Thousands of runners got doused in color in Saturday’s color run at Frontier Field. The color run Tropicolor World Tour incorporates color, scents, the shade of palm trees, and island-style music with a 5k. 

    Nonprofit serving young adult and teen cancer survivors expands
    May 12. 2016
    A local nonprofit that provides support for young people battling cancer is expanding its mission. 13thirty Cancer Connect is the new name of the organization that used to be known as Melissa’s Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation.

    Inaugural Kick Cancer 15K Race Series
    May 12, 2016
    Three cancer charities are teaming up for the Inaugural Kick Cancer 15K Race Series. 13thirty Cancer Connect, Anna’s Wish and Christopher’s Challenge will each hold a 5K race.

  • lessons

    The Lessons of Cancer

    Cat Gawronski teaches us the lessons she learned on her personal journey as an AYA living with cancer.

    I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 22, right in the middle of graduate school.

    Having cancer was not personally the terrible experience that I believe most people picture when they think about being diagnosed with cancer. I really looked at having leukemia as a learning experience, especially because I am going into the medical profession. Even when diagnosed, I was honestly relieved that there was finally a reason why I had been feeling sick for so long.

    Having a diagnosis was like having a goal for me — knowing that leukemia was something that I could beat.

    There were certainly some bumps along the road, like having a reaction to chemo, getting hospitalized right before finals week, and missing exams. And, not being able to graduate with my friends this past year was probably the most disappointing moment through my treatment. However, I would say with certainty that the positive experiences outweigh the negatives.

    My relationships with my friends are just as strong, if not stronger now than they were before I had cancer, and I even made some new friends in the process. I was able to convince my family that I needed a dog. I learned a lot about love and sacrifice from my family. And I found that I am really passionate about helping other young adults with cancer.

    I really do believe that everything happens for a reason — I had cancer so that I could help somebody else.

    -Cat Gawronski

    I recently finished chemo, and I am not sure what I was expecting because when I think about what cancer looked like in my mind before all of this, I don’t think “post-cancer” was anything I ever envisioned. It certainly isn’t ever portrayed on TV or in the movies. The only thing I can really relate having leukemia to is to running a half marathon. When you start the race, you are thinking about the end goal, of finishing, but aren’t thinking about after. When you start the race, you think about making it to small milestones, like the first 3 miles (or the end of your first cycle of chemo). Next is the half way point which is a boost (for me this was getting to go back to school). Your legs are tired, but you don’t notice because you are so focused on making it to the finish line. Then, you only have a mile or two left when you are really fatigued — but you don’t really notice because you know you’re almost at the end (knowing that you only have a few procedures left).

    Finally, you cross the finish line and you stop running. And it hits you: your toes all have blisters, your calves are burning, your mouth is dry, and you are exhausted. You have met your goal, so you don’t have anything to focus on and you finally feel the weight of the 13.1 miles you just ran.

    This is what it was like to finish chemo. I got to the end, which was such a great feeling, but I finally realized how tired I was.

    It finally hit me what I had just been through over the past 29 months.

    I don’t know if I thought my life was just going to magically go back to how it had been before cancer…but I honestly feel kind of weird. Being post-treatment now, I feel like I need to re-learn what “normal” is again. This has been a lot more difficult than it was to adjust to having cancer.

    However, I know if I look at this through the lens of my cancer — an experience to learn and grow from — I will be able to take something from it and help others try to navigate “normal”.

    If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that cancer might leave you physically, but it never really goes away. Every day I have a choice to let that impact be positive or negative.

    Finding the positives aren’t always easy. But, because of all of this, I definitely choose to try to see the good in every situation, see the beauty in the world around me, and see how I can be a better person and use what I’ve learned to positively impact others.

    About the Author 

    catCat Gawronski is one of our 13thirty participants! She was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and has recently finished treatment. She is in her last year of pharmacy school at University at Buffalo.