A number of the Cornell students involved in Relay for Life will participate in honor of a friend or family member who has suffered from cancer. Relay for Life, the signature event of the American Cancer Society, will be held on campus in April to raise money for the cause. “I have very strong personal convictions for [the Relay],” said Cheryl Kravchuck ’07, co-chair of online registration, fundraising and banking. Kravchuck lost her mother to cancer last year. Sean Nassoiy ’05, who is also involved in the Relay for Life, battled testicular cancer the fall of his junior year at Cornell. His 2003 diagnosis, however, was not his first personal encounter with cancer. Nassoiy’s father had passed away from cancer three years before. “It was pretty overwhelming. My experience [with cancer] thus far was fatal,” Nassoiy said. Nassoiy, a football player, left for treatment that fall and returned in the spring of 2004.
“It’s funny, I don’t think much changed. I was away for a couple months. My relationships with people didn’t change. People reached out to me. Coaches and players reached out to me. I couldn’t have asked for more support but I was excited to get back up here to start working out and playing football again,” he said.
Nassoiy admits that returning to football was challenging.
“People had confidence in me but I had lost confidence in myself. I had gotten weaker, I feel like I’d gotten slower. Coming out of camp this summer, starting and playing meant a lot to me. It proved that I hadn’t lost anything, I felt like I had improved over the summer,” he said.
“[Sean’s] been an inspiration to us all. He came back this year, beat the cancer and played a whole season of football really well. His heart and drive has just been one of a kind and its something we all shoot for,” said teammate Trevor MacMeekin ’05.
Despite his personal experiences with cancer, Nassoiy remains optimistic and grateful about his situation, even noting that, “twenty years ago, I would have died.”
He added, “I was fortunate, it only took out two months of my life. … It was the best type of cancer I could have.”
Nassoiy believes that his own experience has “[made] it a reality” for others around him. “I’m approached by a lot of guys that think they have something and I appreciate that. I’m someone that they can talk to,” he said.
As a sign of support, Nassoiy’s teammates will be participating in the Relay as well. “We’re getting a team for the seniors. I didn’t really have to ask them, they kind of approached me about doing it,” Nassoiy said.
“They’re all rallying around it; they’re all excited about it. … It makes me proud to have these guys backing me up like that,” he added.
Nassoiy was approached by Alison Knoth, an American Cancer Society staff partner in Tompkins County.
“She kind of put a new light on it. She said, ‘you’re a survivor.’ … and I had never really thought about it like that,” Nassoiy said.
“Its been amazing to have Sean join our steering committee because he’s an embodiment of what Relay for Life is all about,” said Simi Katragadda ’07, chair of Relay. At the Relay kickoff meeting, Nassoiy gave an emotional account of his experiences with cancer.
Like the committee members for the event, Nassoiy is “just excited to see this thing take off. I think that it’ll be big this year and in the years to come, it’ll get even bigger. … Everybody has something to do with cancer. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. If you reach people on that level, we’ll be able to raise more money.”
Archived article by Diana Lo
Sun News Editor