By Givio Student Network Contributing Blogger, Mary Carr.

We’re all human, right? And I know it sounds cliche, but all of us will face struggles and adversity at some point during our lifetime. Sometimes the difference between hope and despair is simply having someone we can share that burden with. Maybe we need that person in our lives, or just maybe- we need to be that person for someone else.

Nikki Ferraro was someone that needed to share her burden. If being a teenager wasn’t hard enough, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 17. Nikki was thrown into a new world of countless doctor visits, surgeries and medicine that makes you feel sick. Oh, and don’t forget the daily stress of high school.

But Nikki didn’t let her troubles weigh her down. Instead, she managed to find a silver lining in her difficult situation and decided to use her struggles as a means of helping others. Just two weeks after the diagnosis, Nikki formed a Relay for Life team that she named Bite Me Cancer. After raising over $22,000, her team swept the victory and Nikki had accomplished her goal of bringing more awareness to those suffering with cancer.

But Nikki didn’t stop there. She remembered her own negative experiences in the hospital where she had felt a lack of support tailored to her needs as both a cancer patient and a teenage girl. And Nikki assumed that she wasn’t the only teen who felt this way. Understanding that “people want to help, but they just don’t know what to give you,” Nikki turned her Relay for Life team into a nonprofit foundation helping teens to not feel alone while battling cancer. And keep in mind that she did all this while still in the midst of her own cancer battle.

Nikki has to live with cancer everyday, but she made the decision to not just carry her burden but to help others carry theirs. She managed to create a community of teens that could share their burdens with one another. Just last year in 2019, Bite Me Cancer delivered 1700 support bags to teen cancer patients across the country. They were assembled by volunteers and filled with meaningful, age-appropriate items like gift cards, stress balls, and journals. What an impact a simple act of kindness can have on someone in need!

Today, Nikki is still undergoing treatment for her cancer but is “doing great!” There is still blood work and medication (and, of course, the side effects), but Nikki explained that her condition is manageable and under control.

If you, like me, are inspired by Nikki’s courage and selflessness, then please support Bite Me Cancer. But that’s not all you can do. We never know when we may encounter someone struggling at the brink of hope and despair. And when we do, let’s follow Nikki’s example and be that person whom others can share their burdens with. From the wise words of Nikki, “Giving back makes the situation meaningful and makes your heart feel better. No act is too small.”

– By Mary Carr, Contributing Blogger for the Givio Student Network