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BRICKS

Charissa Hamilton-Gribenas is a Pittsburgher who lost her husband to Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He was only 31, and she realized that there was a need for real stories and support for young adults fighting cancer.  With the help of the Sprout Fund, she was able to publish a book of 15 stories about young adults and their experiences with the disease.

On her blog she describes the beginning of her project:

“In the 3 short years I spent with Rick I learned a lot about cancer, the injustices of our healthcare system, and how few resources are dedicated to addressing the basic needs (and ultimately the survival rates) of young adults diagnosed with cancer in their 20s and 30s. After Rick’s passing I knew that we had worked too hard for too long for me to keep all the little bits of knowledge I had learned to myself. My desire to help young adults with cancer did not end when Rick’s life did, but rather was fueled by it- I knew that now more than ever I needed to dedicate the exhausted and frazzled remains of myself to fighting this fight, and that by doing so I could make something positive come out of this experience. One key lesson that I learned from my husband was that every experience, even the negative ones, had value. They can all teach you something if you let them. This is to be no exception.”

Charissa and the BRICKS books

Her organization and the book are called BRICKS, which stands for Building Resources in Cancer Knowledge & Services.  Free copies can be had just by contacting Charissa.  A recent article in Tonic Magazine describes the kinds of stories that are shared in the book:

“’The Assless’ tells how a young man customized his bicycle to let him ride to and from hospital visits without risking the spread of the disease. ‘Cancer Free, Ohio OR Second String Friends’ tells of a young woman suffering from an ‘old man cancer,’ renal cancer. ‘A Chemo Story’ tells of 20-year-old Luke Ferdinand’s fight against not only non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphoma, but also the rigid institution of cancer treatment: ‘As I was not yet 21, I was admitted as a pediatric patient, given a pediatric chemo course on the children’s floor of the hospital and generally treated like, well, a child.’ Ferdinand remembers watching the series finale of Seinfeld at the Ronald McDonald House while everyone around him ‘seemed younger, sicker.'” – Sam Brand

Hamilton-Gribenas has also done Roller Derby and dance party fundraisers, a bike ride and talk with a cancer survivor (Ezra Caldwell–also a contributor to the book), and other events around the city to promote and support the organization.

Poster for the release party by Mike Budai

photos used courtesy of Charissa Hamilton-Gribenas

If you’re fighting a disease (cancer or another health problem), or know someone who has cancer or has fought cancer, this could be a great resource for you.  Click on the links to find out more, or become friends with BRICKS on Facebook..

And you can also check out these books from the library:

Teenage Cancer Journey by Kathleen Gill:

At times both humorous and heart-wrenching, Teenage Cancer Journey describes the author’s personal struggles with philosophical questions (“Why me?”), as well as with practical dilemmas (“Will my wig stay on while I’m riding a roller coaster?”).


Teens with cancer by Gail B. Stewart ; photographs by Carl Franzén. : Four young cancer patients talk about how they were diagnosed with cancer, the support they received, and their chances for recovery.

After ever after by Jordan Sonnenblick : Although Jeff and Tad, encouraged by a new friend, Lindsey, make a deal to help one another overcome aftereffects of their cancer treatments in preparation for eighth-grade graduation, Jeff still craves advice from his older brother Stephen, who is studying drums in Africa.


Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen: When Johanna shows up at the beginning of summer to house-sit next door to Finn, he has no idea of the profound effect she will have on his life by the time summer vacation is over.

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