It was a typical spring morning last April when Reed Kavner walked into Student Health Services for what he thought was a pulled muscle or a pinched nerve.
“I’d been doing some heavy lifting at my job at CNN. and I figured that was where the pain came from,” said Kavner, who at the time was a freshman majoring in journalism.
Two weeks later, with his ailment still undiagnosed, Kavner underwent an MRI. Later that night, he received a phone call from his oncologist.
“The doctor called me and said, “You have a tumor,'” Kavner said. “I was so shocked I didn’t know what to think.”
Kavner was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that is most prevalent in teenage males. Since the tragic news just months ago, Kavner has taken on a second fight for more awareness about rare forms of cancer.
Kavner has started two online groups – a Web site and a Facebook group – that raise money for cancer research and awareness.
Using the Web design program iWeb, he created a Web site entitled “Let’s Beat This” in August. Kavner dedicated his site towards raising money for childhood cancers, specifically Ewing’s Sarcoma.
“At first the response was slow, but we gradually built support,” Kavner said. “We’ve raised over $6,000 since we started.”
In addition to the Web site, Kavner also started the Facebook group “Cancer is no good” about two weeks later. Like the Web site, the group is devoted to raising money and awareness of Ewing’s Sarcoma. As of this week, it had more than 1,500 members nationwide and has raised over $2,000.
“The group has been incredibly successful,” said Kavner’s friend, sophomore Emma Aronson. “Everyone’s really proud of him and what he’s done.”
Kavner underwent a rigorous schedule of chemotherapy treatments. Every three weeks, he would arrive at the hospital for a one- to four-day chemotherapy treatment coupled with a drug cocktail. While the treatment has not been as severe as Kavner originally expected, he said chemotherapy is “no fun at all.”
“It just completely screws you up,” he said. “The first time I had it, I didn’t eat for four days.”
Kavner also found himself constantly fatigued and without any energy.
“The lethargy is horrible,” he said. “At one point, I was sleeping 18 hours a day.”
Despite his lack of energy, Kavner decided to use his time to prevent others from undergoing the same pain. After discussing the subject with cancer experts, he learned that research on Ewing’s Sarcoma and other childhood cancers is under-funded.
“There aren’t as many sufferers of childhood cancer as there are of, say, breast cancer and it’s less visible,” Kavner said. “The funding from places like (the National Institutes of Health) is generally insufficient.”
Regardless of his successes on the Internet, Kavner says he has only begun his fight.
“My dream is to bring a well-known comedian to my hometown and get a lot of people to come and learn about the need for money.”
Since leaving GW last spring, Kavner has been living with his family in Santa Clara, Calif. He remains in contact with many of his friends from GW and hopes to come back to Washington as soon as possible.
“I miss being in a college community, he said. “At GW, there’s no excuse to be bored.”
For now, Kavner is focused on balancing his fundraising efforts with the realities of cancer treatments. Last week, he traveled to New York City for a complicated surgery that involves physically removing the tumor, as opposed to chemotherapy, which is designed to prevent cancer cells from dividing.