Adventure Project

Jack Gioffre

Jack is a 19-year-old go-getter with a passion for sports. As a student and an athlete, he makes sure to never take anything for granted, as is an inspiration for those around him.

His story: "I currently attend the University of Michigan, where I study computer science and work with the Men's and Women's Lacrosse programs outside of the classroom. I played baseball at Wilton High School. Even though I didn't continue playing baseball in college, I played pickup basketball and frequently lifted weights in order to stay in shape.

My passion for playing and following sports lead me to Michigan, and I hope will lead me into a career in sports as well. I hope to complete treatment this summer so I am able to return to school in the fall and continue my work with the Athletic Department at Michigan.

In October of 2018 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in my left tibia, which left me on crutches. As someone who moved freely so frequently, the physical limitations of a weak leg bone are frustrating. As it slowly heals, I look forward to being able to walk, use a stationary bike, and more. I have met many children who are less fortunate than I am, so I am grateful for the many kinds of exercise that I am still able to do. I hope to be able to return to playing basketball, skiing, and running in the near future.

His Goal: "Regain muscle tone and stamina."

Personal Motto: "We go again."


Rachel Domogala

Rachel is a loving, kind, and motivated 22-year-old with a passion for trying new things and pushing her limits. She is determined to help those around her and looks at her diagnosis as a gateway to a new perspective on life.

Her story: "Growing up, I was always very active and loved trying new things. In high school, I started training in classical voice performance, a physically demanding area of study since your body becomes your instrument. By the time I reached my sophomore year of college I was used to rigorous class, rehearsal, performance, and physical training schedules. Despite mybest efforts, I started to experience chronic fatigue among other common thyroid disease symptoms. After consulting an endocrinologist, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and papillary thyroid cancer. I underwent a total thyroidectomy and central neck dissection followed by a radioactive iodine treatment.

Despite the heath setbacks, I continued my studies throughout surgery and treatment and graduated college having focused on music and international business courses. Throughout my recovery process, I have been working on rebuilding my physical and mental stamina through hobbies such as rock climbing, yoga, biking, photography, hiking, archery, running, swimming, etc. I've been able to try a lot of different activities and continue to stay active in many of them. Overall, my cancer journey has taught me a lot about life, mainly that you can’t rush the healing process. I love helping people, and this experience has given me new opportunities to help people in ways I wouldn’t have been able to before my diagnosis.

Her Goal: "Rebuild my psychical stamina. Become scuba certified; rock climb in Kalymnos, Greece"

Personal Motto: "Just keep swimming."


Maya Oberstein

Maya is a 16-year-old who won't let anything get in the way of her living life to the fullest. Whether it's gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, or biking, Maya is in her element when she is moving her body. She's an optimist and an inspiration for all.

Her story:  "From the age of 5 I had been competing in gymnastics. So, at the age of 9 when my knee was in pain and my leg was a little swollen, I just assumed it was an insignificant injury that I had gotten while doing gymnastics. At a certain point, my leg was causing me too much pain to just ignore. So my parents brought me to the doctor who diagnosed me with osteosarcoma. Over a period of eight months I underwent chemotherapy and a rotationplasty amputation. I was devastated to lose my leg because no one knew if I would be able to continue gymnastics, but I was driven to do so. After I completed treatment, I spent a year relearning to walk and run so that I could resume gymnastics. By age 11, I was able to get back on the team and compete with able-bodied peers. I even managed to place in several events at the state championships.

Unfortunately, at the age of 13, I tore my medial meniscus due to overcompensating for my amputated leg. So I had to work my way back to being fit. At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with May-Thurners syndrome which meant that my leg was constantly swollen and I could not wear my prosthetic leg. After a stent was placed in my iliac vein, I started to wear my leg again, but I started losing weight, prompting an evaluation for cancer recurrence. Fortunately, there was no sign of cancer, but I was diagnosed with celiac disease. By the time I was able to start a proper diet, I had already lost fat and muscle, causing my prosthetic to no longer fit. Once I began a gluten-free diet and started feeling better again, I began to struggle with athletics. I went through some evaluations and was told that my decrease in activity combined with my weight loss caused me to become de-conditioned."

Her Goal: "I would like to be able to remain fit and active so that I can stay healthy and reduce my chance of recurrence."

Personal Motto: "If you believe in yourself, you can do anything."

To learn more about Maya, click here.


Brittany Alvarado

Focused on Fitness

She’s 25 years old, passionate about soccer, people and living her best life. She’s “always looking for a new adventure” as she pursues a career as a videographer. She’s also a thyroid cancer survivor, diagnosed her junior year in college. A relentless, hard-working, high-achieving athlete in school she now aims for fitness that will allow her to “consistently work out with different movements.”

Her story:  "It was just after I finished my junior year of college, I started to notice something was off about me. My whole life I had been a healthy athlete, who was always leading the way when it came to fitness. I was a complete sports junkie. That wasn’t the case anymore. I could barely wake up at 12pm and even if I got an insane amount of sleep, I still wanted to sleep more. I didn’t understand. So after things didn’t change and I was becoming more noticeably moody and tired, I went to get my yearly physical to see what was up. My blood work came back with my thyroid levels all out of wack, which is where the rollercoaster began...

"To this day, though I am cancer free, my body still isn't the same. I have to take medication every day for the rest of my life to make up for not having a thyroid. Monthly blood work is the new norm too and I hate needles. I had to get three eye surgeries due to Graves' eye disease, which pushed my eyes outward. ...There are days of mood swings and roller coasters. Things that came so easily to me now take major motivation to do. It's all a part of my new life after cancer, but every day I remember that going through this gives me a bigger platform.

"I am living the dream right now and cancer will not stop me. I say my life is forever changed because it is. No, my body will never feel 'normal,' but I will never stop fighting a good fight. I will never ever change who I am. I just want to make people smile. I want to make people better and I fully intend on doing that day in and day out. Love and courage beat cancer."

Her Goal: "Building a healthy body. Would love to be part of a sport like kickboxing or boxing or CrossFit"

Personal Motto: "Believe (I have it tattooed on my wrist). If you believe in something and truly want it, you can achieve it."

To learn more about Brittany, click here.


Philip Nicholson

Kickin' It Back in Gear

When asked for his bio on his Adventure Project application, this humble 18-year-old hero wrote the paragraph below. A lifelong soccer player and on his high school's varsity team his junior and senior year, this high achieving athlete and student wound up caught in a different kind of net a year ago, one no kid should have to face. The Adventure Project aims to help him reclaim what his battle with cancer took away.

His story: "This is a weird thing to write and I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to write about. If it’s about my illness, I don’t think my story is too dissimilar from other cancer survivors and patients. I was diagnosed with T-cell ALL (T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia) back in September 2017 and with the support of my friends and family made it through intensive chemo, starting maintenance June 15, 2018. Like with other cancer patients, treatment has been rough and while I’m nowhere near the shape I used to be in, which has negatively impacted my self-confidence, I think I’ve become closer to some people than I otherwise would have and I’m grateful for that. I guess that is my story."

His short-term athletic goal: "To be fit enough to play soccer again."

His long-term athletic goal: "To be comfortable with my body again. Healthy enough to do all the activities I used to be fit enough to do."

Personal Motto: He doesn't have one (yet). So we're giving him one until he does. It matches the young man we've been fortunate enough to get to know: "Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope."

 


Lacey Henderson

Bringing It!

Take 10 parts tenacity, add in equal portions of talent, optimism and heart then top it off with a joke, an endless smile and the kind of wisdom you’re left with when you shake off a particularly life-threatening form of cancer and you’ve got 28-year-old Paralympian Lacey Henderson. She is fun, formidable, a fighter and a giver ...a perennial optimist and a role model for all who meet her.

Her story: "At the age of 9 years old, I was diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer called Synovial Sarcoma. After failed chemotherapy trials, I opted for the amputation above my right knee in order to be an active kid again. Once I was 'back on two feet,' I was unstoppable. Playing sports from volleyball and soccer to finding the world of competitive cheerleading and a career that lasted through high school and into college with an athletic scholarship (University of Denver, Division 1). After University, I attempted the pole vault on a dare and fell in love with a new sport. From there, I started sprinting and long jumping as they are the only two events in my category. I quickly rose to the top rankings in the world. In 2013, I first learned to long jump, and in that same year, broke a 17-year American Record and made my first World Championship team. Since then, I have made the 2015 World Championship team and the 2016 Paralympic team. My athletic adventure continues, hopefully, through 2020 for the Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo."

Her Goal: "This year, I want a PB (personal best) and new AR (American Record) as well as to be one of the few women in history (only four so far) to break the 4-meter mark (current PB is 3.94m)"

Personal Motto: "Excellence is the difference between where I am and where I am going."

To learn more about Lacey, click here.


Giacomo Brancato

Undefeatable.

When high school junior standout athlete Giacomo Brancato walked into the Mission Training Center in January 2015 with his basketball coach just weeks after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and only days before his first round of chemo, something rather gigantic shifted. Hope, aligned with guts, determination and talent, met the inspiration and practical tools needed to get past this devil. Giacomo trained at the Center while he fought the torturous effects of the treatment needed to save his life. His mom attended nutrition classes to learn how to feed his fight.

Giacomo continues to work out at the Center, augmenting his daily practices for the Varsity high school baseball and basketball he plays. He’s strong. He’s confident. He’s back. Last winter he earned first-team All-FCIAC honors in basketball and went on to play for a high school state championship in baseball. Next year he will attend Fairfield University where he was recruited to play D-1 baseball. For more about Giacomo, click here.