Student offers cancer support

By Kris Cabulong
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Senior creates online support group for cancer victims, families

Drew Manusharow, fine arts senior, lost his best friend this past summer. After fighting it for years, his father John succumbed to cancer the morning of May 12, 2004. Drew held his hand as he died.

In honor of his father's memory, Manusharow founded a support group for students affected by cancer on, a popular online networking directory for students that opened to UA students this semester.

Simply called "Cancer Group," Manusharow said he hopes to reach out to other UA students coping with the effects of cancer in their lives.

"It's a small thing I can do for other students that are in the same situation as I am. I'm really struggling right now," Manusharow said. "(My father and I) could talk about everything. He understood what I was going through. I don't have that person anymore."

Manusharow said he hoped to reach about 20 students. By yesterday, less than a week after its launch, Cancer Group accepted its 101st member.

Manusharow said he feels "just really touched."

"I get goosebumps," he said. "There's molecular cellular biology students, athletes, art students. There's a whole variety of people."

Most Cancer Group members are eased into discussion by reading the testimonies of other students before they post, he said.

Members slowly begin talking to each other, eventually meet each other and form discussion groups, he said.

Manusharow said The Facebook is a great medium because some people "bottle a lot of stuff in." He said The Facebook helps people who are suffering but aren't ready to talk to about their pain with people they know.

"And they're not just anyone, they're students that go to the U of A," Manusharow said. "There's this sense of connection."

The Cancer Group's message board is filled with stories of UA students who have and are suffering from the affects of cancer in their personal lives, but each posting has words of encouragement and solidarity.

"There's definitely a lot of people that have been affected from this," said Heather Kiesz, senior majoring in Russian and psychology and a Cancer Group member.

Kiesz said her mother is dying from brain cancer on both sides of her brain. She doesn't expect her mother to last through Christmas.

"Knowing there are people out there to share with who can relate is a big help," Kiesz wrote to Manusharow through the Web site. She said it is important for people who are facing the same pains to get together and talk about it.

Since she joined the group, Kiesz said she's received a lot of support.

"I've been getting so many e-mails from people I don't even know from campus," she said.

"They say, 'I'm praying for you,' 'I'm thinking of you,'" she said. "They don't even know me. It's been a really big help to me."

Aisling Campbell, a junior majoring in english and creative writing, wrote to Manusharow, "I never would have thought of something like (Cancer Group), but I'm grateful someone did."

Campbell, who overcame cancer when she was 16, said Cancer Group stood out from most of the groups on The Facebook, which tend to be more social, light-hearted collectives.

"If I wanted to talk about what I went through, it's good to know the Cancer Group's there," she said.

"I don't even know these people," Manusharow said. "You haven't even seen their faces before, and then you see them in this group. Without even knowing these people, I kind of helped them."

With what was originally supposed to be a small group exploding to more than 100 members, Manusharow said he hopes to organize various philanthropies to raise money for cancer funds and to spread cancer awareness.

"It's out there, and a lot of people don't see that," he said.

A UA volleyball player, last year was the first year Manusharow didn't play on a team in the past 10 years, having gone up to Phoenix almost every weekend to be with his father.

"My father would beat it, then it would come back, then he would beat it, and then it would come back. Four and a half years," Manusharow said. "He tied our family together. He kept a strong spirit. He never let anyone see that he was in pain."

Manusharow said he feels for other suffering UA students who are struggling to stay in school.

"I want to help them," he said.