Students, faculty start social media campaign to support professor through cancer treatment


Source: Orko Manna

Medill juniors Ellie Friedmann, Rachel Fobar, Orko Manna and A.J. Vielma hold a #DownWithLumpy sign. The four students, who took a class with Medill Prof. Matt Paolelli their freshman year, took a photo to support the professor through his cancer treatment.

Peter Kotecki, Reporter

Numerous Northwestern students, faculty members and community members have participated in a social media campaign supporting Medill Prof. Matt Paolelli, who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.

The pictures went online Jan. 30, which was the first day of chemotherapy treatment for Paolelli. Athletics Director of Digital and Social Communications Doug Meffley said many members of the NU community, including the football team and Willie the Wildcat, gathered to take photos and uploaded them to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #DownWithLumpy.

Paolelli said he noticed a lump in his neck in October 2014 and observed it for a while. A doctor recommended that Paolelli go to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who said the lump could be Hodgkins lymphoma. Paolelli said he was shocked to hear the news because he is in good health otherwise.

He began jokingly referring to lymphoma as “lumpy,” he said, and his first post on Facebook about the cancer included a response from a friend with the hashtag #DownWithLumpy.

The professor said he began documenting his experience with cancer in his blog.

“The blog is actually just my personal blog that has kind of turned into a cancer blog since I got my diagnosis,” Paolelli said. “It is a therapeutic way for me to process everything that is happening and keep people informed. I started posting more regularly on my blog about the various tests I was taking and my feelings about that, and the whole process of going through being diagnosed with Hodgkins and now starting chemotherapy treatments.”

Meffley said University Relations broadcast associate Brendan Cosgrove and Theresa Paolelli, Matt Paolelli’s wife, both played a large role in reaching out to members of the NU community prior to Matt Paolelli’s first treatment. 

“I woke up in the morning on the day of my chemo and logged into Facebook, and my entire news feed was just photos and posts of people wishing me well on my chemotherapy and using the hashtag #DownWithLumpy,” Matt Paolelli said.

 Medill junior Orko Manna said Theresa Paolelli contacted him to help raise awareness of the campaign among Medill students. Manna said he knows Matt Paolelli well because he has taken a class with him and filmed the Paolellis’ wedding in the summer of 2014. 

Manna said he reached out to some friends at NU, including peers from a freshman journalism class that Paolelli was the lab instructor for. Manna and his lab group went to McCormick Foundation Center and took a photo for Paolelli in the same spot they took their end-of-the-quarter photo at the end of the journalism class, Manna explained.

Alumni Relations and Development digital community manager Brent Waugh also spoke to Theresa Paolelli about involving the NU community in the social media campaign. Waugh said he helped gather about 75 members of the Alumni Relations and Development staff, and the group took a picture for Matt Paolelli with signs that said “Down With Lumpy.” 

Paolelli said seeing the posts of support was overwhelming to him.

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Twitter: @peterkotecki