"Get Tough, Be Strong and Go": James Ambassador and Survivor Nancy Rapport

This past May 15 was a celebration for Nancy Rapport, as she watched her daughter Emily graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Davidson College.

It was a much different May 15 than the one she experienced in 2000—the day she received her breast cancer diagnosis, terrified of leaving behind her two young children. “Emily’s graduation is the reframing of May 15 for me,” says Rapport, whose tendency to find the positive makes her an excellent school counselor, certified professional coach and volunteer/advocate for The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). And while others often look to her for advice and strength, Rapport found the encouragement she needed through a cancer support group also attended by Stefanie Spielman. It was the first time Rapport and Spielman, both Canton natives born only one week apart, had met, but their shared experience brought them close together.

Her friendship with Spielman inspired Rapport to become involved with the OSUCCC – James, first as a committee member of Stefanie’s Champions, then as a volunteer at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center, and now as a member of the James Ambassadors Society. She also rides in Pelotonia as a member of the Stefanie’s Team of Hope peloton.

Almost defiantly, Rapport does not spend as much time training for the ride as she acknowledges she should. “The way I justify it is that you don’t get a chance to train when you get hit with a cancer diagnosis. You don’t get a chance to prepare and get yourself ready—you just have to get tough, be strong and go.”

When the route is difficult, she reviews a notecard with the names of everyone who contributed to her journey. “I think about each person who made my ride successful, and I think about the people who aren’t able to ride or aren’t with us any longer.”

She rides for Spielman and the other friends she has lost along the way, but also for her father, who died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1991. “I marvel because he had cancer before people talked about cancer. He totally minimized it. If he had his diagnosis ten years later then I think his story would have ended so differently.”

It is that optimism for the future that buoys her support for the OSUCCC – James. “I want The James to continue to thrive and make breakthroughs that create better options for people with cancer. I had better options than my dad did, and I want my children to have better options than I did.”

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