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Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Jacob Morse

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On September 28, 2016, just 33 days before I was slated to start with RSM last fall, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The uncertainty that came along with a cancer diagnosis was unsettling to say the least. Just over a month away from beginning my professional life, my roadmap had suddenly flown out the window and sat along the highway as I kept driving on. After a slew of scans, biopsies and surgeries I was given a stage 3b diagnosis (stage 4 being the most bleak), my treatment plan was in place and I was ready for some chemotherapy in mid-October.

Once treatment started I was able to think about my career again. I called my office’s (Denver) HR representative soon after my diagnosis, unsure of how my potential employer may react to the bad news. Thankfully I was assured that I’d still have my position at RSM, that my health was the most important, their top priority, and that I could take as much time as I needed during treatment. At this point I had a decision to make. I could wait at home, in rural Idaho, during a six month treatment or I could move the 700 miles to Denver, mid-treatment and begin my career. I elected the latter. 

After about five months of treatment that included a week-long hospital stay, a blood transfusion and six cycles of chemotherapy, I was blessed enough to receive a clean scan on March 9, 2017 – just five days after my 24th birthday. Throughout the time from diagnosis to remission I realized, over and over again that, no one goes through cancer on an island. I was fortunate enough to have wonderful support throughout my treatment. I had an amazing girlfriend that was by my side at nearly every chemotherapy session, and my family and friends always called to see how things were going and sent gifts. RSM was also extremely accommodating allowing me to work when I could and rest when needed. Another large part of my support network was the young adult cancer community. Social workers at my hospital put me in touch with as many resources as they could, but often lamented that the young adult cancer community is one of the most underrepresented and underfunded. I would like to use the time off and funds provided by the 90-90-9 Pursue Your Passion award to become more involved in, and bring awareness to, the young adult cancer community now and for years to come.

First Descents and Hope for Young Adults with Cancer are two organizations that stood out to me while going through treatment and learning about support for young adults (typically age 18-39) with cancer. First Descents provides life-changing, outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer and Hope for Young Adults with Cancer provides direct financial support to young adult patients and survivors through their “Giving Hope Fund.”

First Descents offers free week long outdoor experiences like rock climbing, kayaking or surfing and empowers participants to retake control of their lives after a diagnosis – all while connecting with other young adult cancer patients and survivors. By attending a First Descents trip, I hope to share my experience with other cancer survivors and learn from others’ experiences as well. I also hope to make great friends and become involved in the First Descents alumni system for years to come so that I can be better equipped to be a steward for the young adult cancer community.

First Descents’ slogan, “Out Living It,” is a call to action that bears a striking resemblance to one of RSM’s key tenets: Owning Our Future. When I was diagnosed last fall, I could have stayed in Idaho and let cancer decide my future. I chose to move away from home and begin my career during treatment. If First Descents helps survivors “outlive” their diagnosis I think I will fit right in and my survivorship experience will be greatly enhanced for the rest of my life.

The other organization I’d like to get involved with is Hope for Young Adults with Cancer. This April I attended a conference for young adult cancer patients and was very fortunate to cross paths with one of the co-founders of Hope for Young Adults with Cancer, Billy Paymaster. Billy told me about his organization and that his is one of very few that offer direct financial assistance to young adult cancer patients.

Having gone through a cancer treatment, I can say wholeheartedly financing the treatment was high on my list of concerns. Cancer isn’t cheap and organizations like Hope for Young Adults with Cancer strives to alleviate as much financial stress on patients as they can so that the patients can focus solely on their recovery. Billy’s organization is becoming better known in the cancer community which is fantastic, but this also means that there are more applicants for grants but not necessarily more money. In order to provide financial support to young adult cancer patients and survivors, I would like to support Billy’s organization.

Many hospitals and cancer treatment centers offer financial assistance to patients, but frequently that assistance doesn’t cover the full cost of treatment. Moreover, life doesn’t stop due to a cancer diagnosis. Patients still have bills to pay and children to feed and unfortunately not all employers have the ability to adjust to the physical and mental needs of their diagnosed employees the way that RSM did for me. By donating the majority of my Pursue Your Passion award to Hope for Young Adults with Cancer I will be helping cancer patients get through one of the most difficult challenges they’ll face in their lifetime and will be giving back to the community that helped me own my future when I was faced with the same challenge.