• program info

    Fitness Friends 

    As we approach month six of quarantine, we have started to return to our usual routines, which for many include working out at our local gyms. A good workout, a crucial part of some people’s routines, benefits both our physical and mental health and serves as respite from our new normal but unfortunately, gyms remain closed.

    At 13thirty Cancer Connect, we recognize the impact of physical activity on our well-being, especially following cancer treatment. We have continued to offer our fitness programs virtually to our AYAs and their parents. All of our workout programs include Rochester and Syracuse members, making connections across counties. Both of our trainers have gotten to know members and their families from both of our centers.

    We are so thankful to have made connections with our local trainers— Michelle Dougan, CPT, from Elevate Fitness in Liverpool and Brianne Young, PT, DPT, from UR Medicine Home Care in Rochester. Our trainers have stuck with us through quarantine and adapted to our new remote program style via Zoom video chats. They both continue to challenge us at our monthly 13thirty Fit! and Parent Fit! programs. Check out our calendar and join us for our next fitness program!

    If you’re interested in one-on-one sessions with Michelle, contact her today via Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/shelsworkout

  • 13thirty programs

    13thirty Programs: Wellness, Arts, and of course, Fun!

    At 13thirty Cancer Connect, we host a variety of programs for our members and their parents. Offering regular programs helps address the unique challenges that AYA cancer can present. We try and tackle these challenges together through three program categories: wellness, arts, and social.

    Wellness
    Our wellness programs, focused on both nutrition and fitness, addresses healthier eating and getting back into shape following treatment. Last month we returned to 13thirty Fit! for both our AYAs and their parents. This month, we have a different kind of workout program; we’ll be led through a yoga class on Zoom!

    Expressive Arts
    Whether we’re painting Bandana Bolt medals, writing poetry, or practicing a performance for Journey’s, at 13thirty the work our AYAs do is incredible! Their compassion shines through as they share their stories with one another through their artwork, poetry, music, and more! This month we made Father’s Day cards to follow last month’s Mother’s Day cards.

    Social
    Getting to know other teens and young adults who understand the cancer experience is what 13thirty Cancer Connect is all about. Our Zoom game nights and happy hours are becoming hits and we will keep up the laughs and connections next month.

    Guests
    Wondering who can come to programs at the center and virtually on Zoom? 13thirty Cancer Connect programs are always free and we encourage members to bring a sibling or friend in the 13-30 age range. It may be eye opening to learn about the medical, physical, social, and emotional challenges facing our AYAs.  Keep an eye out for our monthly program calendar. You can find it on both the Rochester and Syracuse program pages, as well as on the site calendar with our other events.

  • Parent Fit – Parents

    parent fit
    Our Rochester trainer, Brianne, will guide 13thirty parents through a session of Parent Fit. Workout at home or join us from your backyard.

  • parent programs

    Parent Programs

    Parent Happy Hour

    At 13thirty Cancer Connect, we’ve been hosting frequent programs on Zoom for our AYAs in both Rochester and Syracuse. We finally got the chance to catch up with our 13thirty parents this month at our Parent Happy Hour program. 13thirty parents joined a Zoom call to connect with one another and catch up since quarantine went into effect.

    A note from our Founder & Executive Director, Lauren Spiker:

    Adolescence and young adulthood come with many life changes and transitions for teens and young adults – and for parents! We all hope our children will become independent, responsible adults able to manage the ups and downs of life on their own, but it’s often really hard to let go and watch the process unfold. When cancer enters the picture, everything changes and regardless of their age, taking care of our children becomes priority number one. In truth, I’ve never met a parent who wouldn’t trade places with his or her child in a heartbeat when cancer threatens. That not an option, our natural instinct kicks into high gear and we do everything humanly possible to ease the pain. We just do what parents do – give everything we have to take care of our child.

    But it’s often a lonely road we walk. Well-meaning friends help the best they can and we are grateful but they don’t know what it’s like. How could they? That’s where 13thirty Cancer Connect comes in. Just as we do for our teens and young adults, we offer parents the comfort of peers who understand. Other parents who know how it feels even when we can’t find the words to describe our fears, our hopes, our dreams. Others who know the weight of our shoes and the pain in our hearts. Though it’s a club no parent ever wants to join, new members are always welcome!

    Upcoming Parent Programs

    Our next parent program is Parent Fit on Thursday, June 11th at 6:30 PM. Our Rochester trainer, Brianne will help us get back on track with our workout routines. Come dressed to workout, inside or outside for this one hour Zoom call.

    Look out for our workout programs for both 13thirty AYAs and Parents and stay connected with our site calendar!

  • Happy Hour – Parents

    parent happy hour

    Grab your drink of choice and enjoy some much needed social time with other Rochester and Syracuse 13thirty parents.

  • Home Cooked Meals to Help Hearts Heal

    Rochester Program – Parents – Join us for another evening of cooking for the Ronald McDonald House families! All supplies included, just bring your smile and helping hands!

  • 13thirty Parent Fit!

    13thirty Fit!Syracuse Program – Parents – The 8th week of 13thirty Parent Fit! is finally here! Our trainer, Michelle, will help us finish strong these last two weeks. Spouses and partners welcome! 13thirty Parent Fit! Syracuse has recently been opened up to parents of kids with cancer of any age – children, teens, and young adults.

  • 13thirty Fit!

    13thirty Fit!

    Program of the Month

    13thirty Fit!

    Every Wednesday for the last four weeks, parents of our teens and young adults have met at our Syracuse center for 13thirty Fit!, an eight-week program designed to help develop healthy workout habits easy enough to do at home without expensive equipment or gym fees. The program, led by our oncology-certified fitness coach, Michelle Dougan, from Elevate Fitness, includes personal goal setting and an hour-long workout each week. Everyone’s favorite songs from the 80’s keep us moving!

    On our third week, we shook things up in Syracuse and invited parents to bring their kids to the program that night. Partner workouts proved to be just as challenging and even more fun than our usual workout routines. A little friendly competition between our parents and kids made us try even harder! Like all 13thirty Cancer Connect programs, peer support is an important element of our fitness programs. Working out with someone can motivate you to work out more often and stay accountable to your goals.

     

    13thirty Fit! History

    13thirty Fit! has been offered at our Rochester center to AYA members and parents since 2012 when it was first designed as part of a research study at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. The goal was simple and still the same: help AYAs regain their former level of fitness and self-confidence in a safe, judgement-free environment. In both Rochester and Syracuse, 13thirty Fit! is held in our warm, comfortable center with friends who understand what it’s like and fitness coaches who can modify exercises to accommodate individual needs.

    Assessment data collected from participants before and after each program consistently point to improved functional fitness and enhanced self-efficacy. Periodic “Quick Fit” sessions held throughout the year supplement the eight-week program and help remind members to keep working on their fitness goals.

    Work out with us again!

    Remember, the Syracuse fitness room is available for individual workouts during regular office hours for both AYAs and parents! Just bring your signed medical release form and call Megan ahead of time at (315) 883-1862. Here’s how to find us! Find out what else is going on in Syracuse here.

    Interested in 13thirty Fit! – Rochester? Contact Rochester Program Director, Steve Esposito, for more information at 595-563-6221 or visit us!

  • garden

    Painting in the Garden (and other Life Reflections)

    We must cultivate our own garden. – Voltaire

    “Have you thought what you’re going to do with my ashes when you get them back?”

    This was not a question I’d ever imagined being asked, especially by one of my children. So, when Melissa surprised me with that question one beautiful spring day seventeen years ago, it took me a minute to respond even though I had, actually, thought about it. Knowing that my 19-year old daughter would die soon of a cancer that could not be cured, I had thought of many unimaginable things.

    Melissa's Story 13thirty

    “Yes, I have,” I sadly responded. Knowing that she thought cemeteries were lonely places, I suggested that we might spread her ashes over the Grand Canyon where we had recently spent a bittersweet last family vacation.

    “Hmmm, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said. Seeing my puzzled look, she continued. “Remember how windy it was the day we were there? It would really be gross if my ashes blew back on all of you.” I still smile remembering how hard we laughed at the thought.

    “Do you have a better idea?” I retorted when we stopped laughing.

    “How about the garden?” my always-wiser-than-I daughter offered.

    It was a perfect plan. She knew we loved to be in the garden but more importantly, I think she knew that tending to and nurturing tender plants and nascent blooms would console my grieving heart when she was gone.

    And she was right. Over the years, Melissa’s garden has grown from the first small bed, where her ashes rest under the arms of a lovely garden angel, to a rich tapestry of color and texture covering our entire side and back yards. This is my sacred place. The place where I seek and find peace. The place where my soul rests alongside hers. A haven from the day’s harried pace and society’s many conflicts. Here, the world makes sense as days pass as predictably as the seasons change.

    As it has through time, spring’s rebirth grows into summer’s glory and eventually yields to the bronze of autumn and the quiet hush of winter’s snowy cover. I take comfort knowing that this universal cycle will always start anew and that the energy within all living things changes form but never dies. Because this is what I believe, my daughter’s ever-present spirit fuels my resolve to carry on and strengthens my confidence that life does happen with purpose.

    Recently, Melissa’s garden became a respite for a small group of other moms whose lives, like mine, were turned upside down when their children were diagnosed with cancer. We came together on a beautiful summer’s night, planted our easels throughout the garden, and with brush in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, absorbed the quiet solitude as paint took shape on canvas. garden

    As evening light started to fade, we stood back and admired our work. The finished pieces were each unique. Different color schemes, brush stroke, perspective, vantage point. But each was inspired by a common bond – the shared experience of motherhood.

    I’ve learned over the years that being a parent and gardening are very similar. Both involve patience, nurturing and the willingness to sometimes overlook pesky, unsightly weeds – or children, in the case of parenting.

    To do both jobs well, one must have the courage to envision and hope for the future.

    Neither happens overnight and shortcuts never work.

    But perhaps the greatest similarity is that both parenting and gardening are difficult, exhausting tasks leaving one bone-weary and often disappointed. It’s physically, emotionally, and psychologically draining gardenwith little respite, especially when parenting a child with cancer.

    The 18th century French writer and philosopher Voltaire once wrote. “We must cultivate our own garden.”   On this magical evening, four moms whose paths would likely never have crossed had it not been for cancer, heeded Voltaire’s advice. Together, they created art inspired by the beauty around them and their individual life experience. In this holy place, they found their own peaceful patch of earth, savored precious moments of solitude and refreshed their weary souls in the company of friends who understand.

     


    final paintingsThis is the wonder of 13thirty Cancer Connect. We support teens and young adults on their journey through cancer and beyond, as well as being a place for parents to connect with each other and build understanding and encouraging community. If your teen or young adult has endured cancer’s treacherous road and you have a need to “cultivate your own garden”, we invite you to join us! The coffee’s always on!

     

     


    About the Author

    lauren-spiker-1Lauren Spiker is our founder, executive director, and chief visionary with a pulse on what’s happening in the world of AYA oncology. Her dreams are big and bold!

  • paradox

    The Paradox of Cancer

     

    Funny how people find themselves together. Families are tied together by birth. Neighbors become neighbors by virtue of geographic proximity. Business relationships are born of mutual economic gain.

    But sometimes, the vagaries of life conspire and cast together people whose paths may never have crossed otherwise.

    This happens often in my world and when it does, I’m always struck by how the universe works.

    Last night, at the first annual Bald for Bucks Beard-Off, nine handsome men chose to shave their prized beards – and in a few cases, their heads – to show their support for our teens and young adults with cancer. In a very public way, they stood together and railed against cancer in young people.

    The atmosphere at Lovin’ Cup, a very cool bistro and brew pub, was upbeat, rowdy at times. Good food, craft beers, live music and a bit of thought-provoking poetry created a good vibe. One by one, each man took his seat and the crowd cheered as each beard hit the floor.

    Many in attendance were waiting for the final three – Charlie Cote, John Nichols and Josh Symer. As I, along with the rest of the house, shouted in approval, a familiar feeling settled in my heart making me both happy and sad. Had it not been for cancer, I would never have met these three awesome people. Had Charlie’s son, also named Charlie, not died, the poems he read last night would have been much less poignant and touching. There would have been no tears. Charlie wouldn’t even have been there, no less be our current Board President.

    Because John’s son, Quin, had cancer and thankfully survived, John serves on our Board of Directors with a commitment forged in his own family’s experience, ever grateful that his son is alive but always wary of cancer’s spectre. If not for cancer, John, too, would not have been there.

    And of course, if Melissa hadn’t died, the organization wouldn’t even exist. Josh, our new Special Events Coordinator, would never have had the opportunity to organize the Beard-Off and be compelled to shave his own beard and head because of his passionate belief in our cause. Certainly, he would have been somewhere else.

    Therein lies the paradox.

    I am blessed to know Charlie, John and Josh and am grateful beyond words for their support and dedication. But I’d give my life to never have met them if it meant Melissa could still be here enriching the world with her gifts. I guess life is like that. Misfortune brought these three men and me together last night but it is my very, very good fortune to know and work with them.

     

    Bladforbucks

     

     

     

    Charlie Cote, John Nichols, Josh Symer without their beards. View the whole album to see John without his 43 year old moustache and Josh without his hair!

     

    About the Author

    LaurenLauren Spiker,  Melissa’s mom and Executive Director of 13thirty Cancer Connect.