Rachel Tova Minkove, a University of Maryland School of Social Work student who wanted to assist young adults as they fought cancer, died of Hodgkin's lymphoma complications July 29 at her Cheswolde home. She was 28.
Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Dr. Judah Minkove, an internist, and Judith Fruchter Minkove, a Johns Hopkins Medicine writer and editor. She was raised in Northwest Baltimore and was a 2001 graduate of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.
She then studied a year in Israel at a Jerusalem seminary school.
She earned a degree in history at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she helped tutor students on the football team.
She taught at Jewish day schools in Los Angeles, but after two years sought a career change. In an essay she wrote for a scholarship application this year, she said she wanted a new job "aimed at making a difference." She also said she was "unsure which direction life would take me and what future opportunities would arise."
In 2008, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. She wrote that her "new life included chemotherapy, doctors' appointments, discussions about mortality, fertility, and many other subjects. ... While my friends were out partying, dating, getting married, and having babies, my new goal was survival."
Ms. Minkove was treated for six months and had a bone marrow transplant from her brother, Samuel Minkove of Baltimore.
"She was a woman filled with hope," said an aunt, Niti Minkove of New York City. "Throughout all her crises in the last four years, she rose above them. She never said anything other than, 'I plan to get better.'"
In the essay she wrote this year, she said that her medical experience suggested a new career to her.
"Walking the halls of the bone marrow unit [at Johns Hopkins Hospital] was a compassionate, understanding and approachable social worker," she wrote of her experience. "I was determined to beat my cancer so I could reclaim my life, become an oncology social worker and help others in my position."
She said she wanted to make people "aware of this often-underserved population." She said in her essay that mortality rates for pediatric and older adult cancer patients have steadily decreased in the last decade, but she felt that young adults with cancer "have seen no improvement."
Ms. Minkove said, "My career path was only realized through my own adversity. My social worker motivated me to apply to school, offering to review my qualifications and essays."
She applied to the University of Maryland School of Social Work and completed her first year in May.
"Rachel was well liked by our social work community. ... Her dignity and grace won her the admiration of those of us fortunate enough to have known her," Jennie Dunleavy Bloom, an associate dean in the School of Social Work, said in a statement. "The social work profession has lost a young woman dedicated to doing some of the most challenging work we are called upon to do."
"Anyone who has ever met Rachel couldn't help but be struck by her natural exuberance. With that dazzling smile and those iridescent, sky blue, sky's-the-limit eyes, she beamed warmth. She also possessed a self-assurance rare for such a young person," said her mother, Judith Minkove.
She was asked to speak this summer at the National Association of Social Work, serving on a panel where she would have discussed how her medical condition led her to social work. She was unable to do so, but a colleague delivered her words.
"Rachel Minkove had the grace to turn her personal experience as a young adult with cancer inside-out as she pursued her career in social work in order to help other young adults with cancer," said Lacy Fetting, the Johns Hopkins social worker she befriended. "Rachel's response reflected her resilience and her habit of being and her deep commitment in service in the community."
"What made Rachel so successful at life was her ability to make a plan and then stick to it," her mother said. "And though her protracted illness continually derailed her plans, she persevered."
She was a Ravens and Orioles fan, and through a family member, she met former player Brady Anderson, who signed a photo for her while she was a John Hopkins Hospital patient. She also threw out the first pitch on a Cancer Survivors Day at Oriole Park.
Services were held Sunday.
In addition to her parents, who live in Cheswolde, and brother Sam, survivors include another brother, Jon Minkove of New York City.
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