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Students raising awareness about Lymphoma's effects beyond blood


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According to the National Institutes of Health, rates of depression and other psychological disorders are significantly higher in adolescents and young adults with cancer. Ensuring young patients' mental health is treated just as seriously as the disease affecting their blood inspired the students behind Team Beyond Blood to make a difference.

As part of the annual Public Relations Student Society of America's Bateman Case Study Competition, Team Beyond Blood, a group of students from the College of Communication, is working to spread awareness about lymphoma across campus and in other communities in Chicagoland. 

Team Beyond Blood is a group of students from the College of Communication working to spread awareness about lymphoma. (Image courtesy of Melania Toczko)
Team Beyond Blood is a group of students from the College of Communication working to spread awareness about lymphoma. (Image courtesy of Melania Toczko)

Each year, the national chapter of the PRSSA partners with a public relations agency or organization to give students across the country an opportunity to create and implement a public relations campaign, from social media management to event coordination. 
This year, PRSSA partnered with the Lymphoma Research Foundation to promote its #EraseLymphoma campaign, which aims to spread awareness about the blood cancer to adolescents and young adults. Although lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer and accounts for nearly 1-in-5 cancer diagnoses among young people, lymphoma patients, ages 15 to 39 are a largely underrepresented population rarely informed about the disease.

“We can only imagine how isolating a cancer diagnosis must be to high school and college students, let alone the exhaustion that comes with health concerns," says Masa Najjar, a member of Team Beyond Blood.

During its research, the group found a lymphoma diagnosis may not only make patients physically vulnerable, but also emotionally and mentally helpless. The group also found members of marginalized communities are especially susceptible to negative mental health effects after a lymphoma diagnosis. A 2018 study published in the “Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology" found young, non-white, Hispanic males are more likely to develop depressive symptoms post-diagnosis than their female counterparts and youth from other ethnicities. Lack of access to adequate healthcare, income disparity and cultural gender expectations, such as maintaining a sense of “machismo," also prevent young Latino patients from receiving adequate care.

“These statistics about Latino and Hispanic youth prompted us to focus efforts on largely Latino communities outside DePaul," says Christina Milich, a member of the team.

Beyond tabling on the Lincoln Park and Loop Campuses, distributing flyers and pamphlets and attending events organized by other students, the group has coordinated with Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez of Chicago's 25th Ward. This allowed the team to meet with stakeholders and organize outreach to middle and elementary schools in Pilsen, a predominantly Latinx neighborhood, to inform parents about lymphoma.

Team Beyond Blood also coordinated with DePaul alumni to further the Lymphoma Research Foundation's cause. Earlier this winter, Landon W. Campbell, the founder of the “InTheir20s" podcast, spoke about his experiences as the friend and coworker of Michael Holmes, another DePaul alumnus who died unexpectedly last spring due to an aggressive form of brain cancer. More recently, the team received a shout out on the “Paseo Podcast," a show targeted toward the Chicagoan Puerto Rican diaspora, headed by Josue Ortiz and Joshua Smyser-DeLeon.

“The Vincentian mission means helping others in need," says Megan Veit, a third member of Team Beyond Blood. “This campaign is teaching us to treat those affected by lymphoma with respect and kindness as we learn more about the disease."

The group is hosting a celebratory game night to mark the end of their campaign on Thursday, March 10 from 5 to 7 P.M. in the Lincoln Park Student Center. Attendees will have an opportunity to win an Amazon Echo Dot, along with other prizes.

Melania Toczko is a senior at DePaul, majoring in communication and media, and a member of Team Beyond Blood. She works in the Division of Mission and Ministry. ​