Mother's, friend's battles with cancer draw man into fight against disease

NEIGHBORS

March 18, 2002|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FOR THE SECOND year in a row, Brock Yetso is organizing a 5K run/walk and 25K bike ride to help fight colon cancer, the disease that claimed his mother, Marilyn.

Yetso's mother died in March 2000, less than a month after she was found to have stage IV colon cancer. "About a month before she went into the hospital, she started feeling like she had the flu," Yetso said. "They did a scan and said she had a tumor in her colon ... and from there it was just extremely quick."

Yetso, 25, was already involved in cancer awareness when his mother became sick.

His best friend from Centennial High School, Doug Ulman, had been diagnosed with cancer three times before age 22.

Ulman, who was at Brown University in Rhode Island, started an organization for young people affected by cancer.

Yetso became deeply involved in the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a nonprofit organization now based in Columbia.

"He started a small project at school and it grew huge because there was a need," Yetso said. In 1997, Yetso and Ulman organized an all-star soccer game at Howard High School to raise money for young adults with cancer.

When Marilyn Yetso became ill, the Ulman Fund offered its help. "Doug, being a three-time cancer survivor, they knew how to navigate the health care system," Yetso said.

The experience inspired Yetso to organize the event at Centennial Park.

"I guess you could say being on the opposite end of the table and reaping the services made me appreciate what the organization was doing," he said. "I approached Doug and said, `I'd like to put on this fund-raiser, this awareness event.' "

Yetso notes that colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, but it is extremely treatable if caught in the early stages.

He advocates early colonoscopies for people with a family history of colon cancer.

"If I can get across to one or two people to get tested, it would be worth it," Yetso said.

Last year, the Centennial Park event attracted 1,100 people and raised nearly $45,000, he said. The money goes to the Ulman Cancer Fund and the Colorectal Cancer Network.

This year's event, which will include distribution of fitness and nutrition information, will be begin at 9 a.m. Sunday at Centennial Park. Runners and walkers will race around the lake, and bicyclists will ride a longer route along area roads.

The registration fee is $25. Top male and female runners will receive trophies and cash prizes of up to $100. Winners in the children's one-mile fun run will receive a trophy. The top bicyclists will win $50.

Last year, when Ulman accepted a job as director of survivorship of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, based in Austin, Texas, Yetso took over as the Ulman Cancer Fund's executive director. Ulman still serves as president of the group's board of directors.

The fund's national advisory panel boasts such big names as Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France bicyclist and cancer survivor; Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Victor A. Broccolino, president of the Howard County General Hospital.

The fund has five full-time employees and a network of about 10,000 survivors, Yetso said. Most of the survivors are local, but there are others throughout the country, he said. "Our primary focus is here in Maryland," he said.

As a business major at the University of Virginia, Yetso had no idea his career would take this particular path.

He had played professional soccer for a year with Maryland Mania, a team that lasted one year. He was going to begin training with another team when his mother became ill.

"A lot of priorities changed," he said. "I never really planned to do this, but now that I do, I never look back."

Information about the event: www.columbiacure.com, or the Ulman Fund, 410-964-0202.

Information about the Ulman Fund: www.ulmanfund.org; information about the Colorectal Cancer Network: www.colorectal- cancer.net.

Community meeting

The Greater Elkridge Community Association will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Elkridge fire hall. One item on the agenda will be a discussion of the U.S. 1 corridor cleanup.

The meeting will be canceled if schools are closed because of inclement weather.

Dean's List

Several Ellicott City residents made the Dean's List for the fall 2001 semester at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

They are sophomore Katherine Kurcz, senior Adam Nettler and freshman Brian O'Connor.

Senior Edwin Glatzel made the Dean's List in the university's School of Management.

Freshman Jaclyn Taubman made the Dean's List in the university's School of Education.

To qualify, these students maintained a grade point average of at least 3.4 and completed at least 12 credit hours for the semester.

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