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Massey Alliance: Using personal connections to raise awareness about cancer among young adults

Mar 20, 2023

Massey Alliance image Nicholas “Nick” Brucker (second from left) and Laurenso Williams (right), at the Massey Alliance Appetizers & Advocacy event in March 2023.

Nicholas Brucker, a 34-year-old stage four colon cancer survivor, shares his story and how he’s partnering with the Massey Alliance to raise awareness about colon cancer among young adults

Nicholas “Nick” Brucker was just 31 years old when he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. The survivor turned advocate has embraced the idea of living life to the fullest – and giving back by helping raise awareness about early detection and to support other survivors.

VCU Massey Cancer Center’s young professionals board, the Massey Alliance, is right there with him.

“It takes a community to navigate and overcome the health care challenges we face today,” close friend and Alliance member Laurenso Williams says.

And the Massey Alliance is all about community. It expands awareness and fundraises to advance research that prevents, treats and ultimately cures cancer.

“VCU Massey Cancer Center cultivates a network in support of cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment by opening the door for community leaders to become involved through groups such as the Massey Alliance,” Williams says. Founded in 2002, the Alliance is a collection of young professionals who support and raise awareness for the VCU Massey Cancer Center through events, outreach and fundraising.

"The Massey Alliance is a dedicated young professional group of individuals within the Massey nation who strive as one team in the fight against cancer,” adds Ben Barani, Massey Alliance president and chief operating officer at Oransi, a corporate sponsor of the alliance and of Massey. “As a group, we are driven to bring results in raising awareness of Massey's mission and also the health disparities and prevention awareness for our Massey support area."

Massey alliance image Nick Brucker hiking with his dog in Shenandoah National Park

Personal connections and impact

The personal experiences each member of the 25-person Alliance board has had with cancer unifies them in achieving common goals: advocacy and awareness.

“I have a close friend receiving treatment through Massey Cancer Center, and I feel proud to work alongside so many dedicated individuals who know that the work we are doing helps save lives,” Williams says.

Annually, the Alliance hosts a series of events, such as Appetizers & Advocacy, where patients and health care providers share perspectives on their journeys with cancer, as well as the research and resources available through the cancer center.

Massey Alliance image Nicholas “Nick” Brucker (center) and Khalid Matin, M.D. (right), speak at the March 2023 Massey Alliance Appetizers & Advocacy event about colorectal cancer in young adults.

Raising awareness about colon cancer in young adults

In March 2023 at Common House Richmond, Nicholas Brucker shared the stage with Khalid Matin, MD, FACP, as the featured guest speakers at the Alliance’s March 2023 Appetizers & Advocacy event.

In 2020, at just 31 years of age and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brucker was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer. He immediately began receiving treatment at VCU Massey Cancer Center, where he met Matin, a medical oncologist and clinical researcher at Massey, specializing in the study and treatment of gastrointestinal cancers.

“After my diagnosis, I knew that the course of my life as I had envisioned it was no longer, and it was going to be up to me to forge a new path forward,” Brucker said.

Sharing his experience, which included many rounds of chemotherapy over two years, Brucker captivated the room with an evening of discussion on colorectal cancer in young adults, as well as the importance of recommended screenings and clinical trials. 

“Learning that I had stage four colon cancer in the middle of a toilet paper shortage did not help,” Brucker joked.

“It is a privilege for those of us who take care of patients with cancer who, like Nick, show us every day what’s important in life, teach us lessons about life and truly inspire us to be better cancer caregivers for our patients. And we are going to continue to do that here at VCU Massey Cancer Center,” Matin said.

Raising awareness and giving back to the community is a goal both Brucker and the Alliance share.

With the help of Williams, Brucker founded Cruising for Cancer, which advocates for cancer patients’ financial well-being and mental health. He shared his story with CBS 6.

Brucker wants to share his enthusiasm and resources with as many patients as he can, encouraging them to push forward and continue the fight.

Massey Alliance article Members of the Massey Alliance, including President Ben Barani (2nd from right, top row) at a Massey Alliance event in 2022

Learn more and join upcoming Alliance events

The Alliance invites you to learn more about ways you can get involved by contacting Emily Pumphrey at the Massey Alliance on social media on Facebook and Instagram @MasseyAlliance. And join them for their upcoming Alliance events:

  • Friday, May 12 - Massey Alliance’s 2nd Annual Belmont Golf Tournament  (Register)
  • Friday, September 22 - Massey on the River at Tredegar Ironworks

Donate to support cancer research at VCU Massey Cancer Center

Written by: Laurenso Williams and Katherine Layton

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