Turning a Cancer Diagnosis into Campaign Fuel

Kathryn G. Bumbalough, MEd ’00, is an upbeat, always smiling, happy go lucky, math professor at Urbana University willing to do anything for her students.  Professor Bumbalough, a UU alumna and an assistant professor of education, has been a faculty member at Urbana University for more than 14 years.  

She cheers loudly at the sports games, honestly tells incoming students that they will get top-notch faculty attention during new student orientations, and enthusiastically serves on committees with the focus of making an impact on campus.  Students describe her as someone who is always there for you, someone who is always positive and looks at the bright side of a situation, and a teacher who genuinely cares about each and every student on this campus.  In the fall of 2012, Kathy was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.  After telling her classes, students were stunned; but, no one had ever expected that this news would spread like wildfire.

Catching wind of the news, Adelia Hootman, a junior family studies major from Hicksville, Ohio, instantly got an idea.  She had recently heard a story of a child back home, Noah, who was struggling with cancer as well and everyone decided to make t-shirts in honor of him.  Adelia started to brain storm with Mallory Fritz, a junior and athletic training major from Pemberville, Ohio, and with Lisa Burns, a junior and early childhood education major from Marysville, Ohio.  They wanted to implement the same t-shirt project at Urbana.

Pictured above: Mallory Fritz, Lisa Burns, and Adelia Hootman.

With the help of the director of career services, Nick Christian, these thoughtful students designed a t-shirt that read: “We support Mrs. B.” on the front and “You Are Never Alone, Together We Will Win” on the back.  These shirts are to not only raise awareness of the campus support for Mrs. B., but also to raise money for the cause*.  

Karrie Legron, a senior majoring in early childhood education from Marysville, Ohio, bought a t-shirt to support and give strength to her favorite professor, who she calls Miss B.  “She is so lively and understanding.  Even when you’re not feeling top-notch, she makes you want to bounce back fast to attend class. She has been my mentor since freshman year and she’s impacted my life with her willingness to talk and help. I would describe her as inspirational,” said Karrie.

“She always tells her classes that students can overcome anything.  So, I know that she can, too.  Right now, students are constantly thinking of her.  Especially when so many people are wearing the t-shirts!”

“Professor Bumbalough is outstanding,” Lisa, co-creator of the “We Support Mrs. B.” project, says. “I’ve never had a teacher that is so involved and caring.  She really gets to know you on a personal level.”  Lisa continued to say, “Be there for her.  She really has impacted the students’ lives.”

Professor Bumbalough’s reputation for teaching math is her legacy at Urbana. Jake Kubuske ’08 stated, “I always hated math and struggled through most of my schooling. Not only did she make it easily understandable, but she made me look forward to class. So glad to have had her as my teacher.”

Marissa Rosenberger ‘07 agrees. “She is one of the best educators I have ever had!”

The same week the “We Support Mrs. B.” t-shirts hit Urbana, staff member and cancer survivor Angela Boggs Brockman ’02 received the unexpected news that her cancer had reoccurred.   

When students learned the news, they made the quick association between the two “Mrs. B’s.” battling cancer and the t-shirts. Brockman states, “I was planning on telling people on my own time, but the news travelled quickly.  The process of telling people can be overwhelming. I want people to know that I am going to be okay, but I want to be ‘normal’.”

The two Mrs. B.’s converse regularly and share a love of Urbana.  Sincere gratitude and appreciation have been expressed by both Blue Knights.

Bumbalough started chemo several weeks ago and said, “The social support has been amazing. There has been an outpouring from the community, my church, and at Urbana. It’s the most important thing in my healing.  When I get weak, I lean on others.  As someone who’s always been a nurturer, this has been a journey with the most incredible people.”  

The outpouring of thoughts and prayers is touching.  For example, student athletes Clay Lust, David Gerber, and Michael Dague have a date set to cook dinner for the Bumbalough family.  Jim and Tammy Nowak, parents of senior student Matt Nowak from Cleveland, Ohio, have sent various mailings (including humorous) to her home address. These gestures are the kind of gestures that leave Bumbalough speechless.

Brockman, who is openly frustrated and uncertain about her battle with cancer, admits, “My students are grounded and they keep me motivated.  I want to express gratitude to those who are in my corner.”

The determined juniors Adelia, Lisa, and Mallory hope people on campus show their support for “Mrs. B.” and buy a t-shirt, available in the Student Center for $10.00 or pre-order a sweat shirt for $25.00.  

To learn more about the “We Support Mrs. B.” project or to purchase a mail order shirt, contact the director of alumni relations, Kat Steiner at ksteiner@urbana.edu.

*A percentage of the proceeds from the sales of these shirts will be going to the American Cancer Society to help fight cancer, a fight that the campus community has long supported with the annual Relay for Life at Urbana University. The Colleges Against Cancer Relay for Life has helped the Champaign County American Cancer Society chapter raise more than $10,000 over the past eight years.

This story was co-written by director of alumni relations Kat Steiner and first-year student Courtney Elliot.  Courtney is from Alliance, Ohio and serves as the work study student for the Office of Alumni Relations.  Courtney is studying for a career in occupational therapy.  She cheers on the competition squad and is a competitive bowler on the University’s team.



Urbana University: What's going on with the washers outside? Some exciting residence hall improvements are happening this summer! https://t.co/eNWlVIvfhO