Students host third annual Cancer Sucks Week to raise awareness, fundraise


Illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

In an effort to engage the Northwestern community in the fight against cancer, four student organizations co-hosted the third annual Cancer Sucks Week. The capstone panel emphasized the unique challenges cancer patients face amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Waverly Long, Reporter

Four student organizations co-hosted the third annual Cancer Sucks Week, a virtual program from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1, with the goal of raising cancer awareness within the Northwestern community.

Throughout the week, the four organizations — Relay For Life, Camp Kesem, St. Baldrick’s and NU Dance Marathon — hosted events centered around their organizations’ missions. These events included an Oct. 27 Halloween-themed charity trivia night hosted by NUDM, an Oct. 28 sweatshirt drawing run by St. Baldrick’s, an Oct. 29 “Day of Kesem at Home” presented by Camp Kesem and an Oct. 30 silent auction and luminaria ceremony held by Relay for Life.

Weinberg senior Sindhu Kosuru, NUDM community engagement co-chair, said the organizers planned the event for months.

“(Cancer Sucks Week is a) week of advocacy, education and fundraising events to really bring the entire Northwestern community into our shared mission of being able to spread awareness of the realities of cancer, particularly during the COVID pandemic,” Kosuru said.

On Halloween, all four organizations collaborated to hold an advocacy-based costume contest. The week culminated in a live-streamed panel on fighting cancer amid COVID-19 on Nov. 1.

The pandemic’s effect on individuals currently undergoing cancer treatment and those who are immunocompromised makes the fight against cancer all the more important today, Weinberg senior and NUDM Executive Co-Chair Ayesha Goswamy said.

“Cancer does not stop during a pandemic… Our goal is to just make sure that everyone in our communities knows about these unique challenges and cares about them,” Goswamy said.

SESP junior and Relay for Life President Bobby Read said the NU chapters of Relay for Life and Camp Kesem started Cancer Sucks Week in 2018 to raise awareness and amplify each other’s work. Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and Camp Kesem is a national organization that supports children who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.

This year, the co-founding organizations collaborated with NU’s chapter of St. Baldrick’s, a national organization that fundraises for pediatric cancer research, and NUDM, which is currently partnering with Compass to Care, an Illinois-based nonprofit organization dedicated to covering travel expenses to and from treatment facilities for children with cancer.

According to Weinberg junior and St. Baldrick’s Recruitment Chair Thomas Alexander, each organization is using Cancer Sucks Week as a platform to shed light on the specific struggles they focus on. For example, St. Baldrick’s is educating the community about the differences between adult and pediatric cancers and the disparity in funding, while Camp Kesem showcased their values of spirit, engagement and fun, according to Weinberg senior and Camp Kesem Development Coordinator Carson Knoer.

The leaders of all four organizations said they hope participants will continue supporting the groups’ missions beyond this week. Read said he encourages those who don’t know how to get involved to take the first step by choosing an organization to work with.

“What this week really shows is that no matter what organization you’re a part of, everyone has the common goal of raising awareness and fundraising for cancer research,” Read said. “So it’s easy to make a difference if you’re willing to just step in.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @waverly_long

Related Stories:
NUDM runs second annual Accessibility Week, introduces new structural changes
Medicine director speaks about record-breaking decline in cancer mortality rates