Kent State student fights cancer with crowdfunding campaign

Garrett+Holubeck

Garrett Holubeck

Erin Zaranec

For most college students, $30,000 would help cover the cost of tuition, start to cover loan payments, allow a lease on a new car or the rent of new property.

For Garrett Holubeck, currently a senior Kent State speech pathology major, $30,000 will just start to scratch the surface of medical bills, time off work, transportation to and from hospitals and other chemotherapy related needs.

In December, Holubeck began chemotherapy for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that impacts more than 72,000 people, according to the American Cancer Society. His treatment plan includes six rounds of chemotherapy over the course of six months.

In response to his diagnosis, a YouCaring crowdfunding campaign began circulating online in the hopes of raising $30,000 to help cover medical related needs. Within 72 hours of going live, more than 200 donors raised over $20,000 for Holubeck and his family.

For Holubeck, his diagnosis was far from expected.

“I was lifting an old school TV and noticed back pains the next day,” he said. “I thought it was just a muscular issue, so I began taking normal medications like ibuprofen and got prescribed steroids.”

His prescribed medications seemed to do more harm than good, as Holubeck began having severe abdominal pains that the doctors diagnosed as gastritis.

After being sent home from the emergency room with no answers, Holubeck’s pain continued, resulting in additional trips to the emergency room.

“(The doctors) took a few more scans that revealed the tumor in my back pelvic area and chemotherapy began the next day,” Holubeck said. “I have been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and, more specifically Burkitt’s Lymphoma, which is extremely rare in the U.S. …  only around (1,200) diagnoses each year.”

After his diagnosis, Holubeck and his family realized just how great of an impact this disease would have. Holubeck was accepted into Kent State’s graduate program for speech pathology, and will begin classes in the coming spring semester. Working in a combined program, Holubeck planned to finish his undergraduate degree while starting his master’s.

“Although money shouldn’t be a concern in a time like this, it’s hard not to think about it,” said Annie Moscato, Holubeck’s sister who started the online crowdfunding campaign. “So, therefore, the money raised will be used to pay for Garrett’s medical expenses, family’s travel expenses and any other bills, since my parents will have to take some time off work.”

During the course of his six-month treatment, Holubeck will face six inpatient hospital stays, with each lasting between five to seven days. His diagnosis will delay the completion of his undergraduate degree, as well as his entry into graduate school.

“I was planning on graduating undergrad in the spring at Kent State, but that will be delayed with the chemotherapy. I’m hoping to graduate in spring 2018 and start graduate school then,” Holubeck said.

Along with his education, Holubeck is a member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and served on the executive board of Kent State’s Operation Smile chapter this past fall semester.

Garrett has always pushed me and other brothers to be our best at not only our school work, but many other aspects of life … he would do anything for someone in need and always puts others before himself,” said John Alvey, a junior exercise science major and member of Alpha Sigma Phi. 

The fraternity is planning an additional fundraiser in the spring semester to help cover Holubeck’s medical costs. 

“I have always loved Kent in my undergrad years and the support I’ve received from the community has been really heartwarming,” Holubeck said.

Erin Zaranec is a features correspondent, contact her at [email protected]