When Kim's 8 year-old son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2009, it was devastating for the entire family. Kim had recently relocated to Minneapolis and was thousands of miles away from all of her extended family in Rochester, NY. While caring for her child with cancer between hospital and home, in a new city, raising a toddler, and supporting her healthcare executive husband who often traveled for work, she became more isolated and lonely as time went on. Focused on doing something to take away that feeling for others, Momcology was born.
Kim's compassionate vision to provide platforms for parents to communicate, feel supported and exchange critical information about pediatric cancer treatment and social emotional effects of childhood cancer continues to be the driving force behind each new initiative Momcology pursues. Kim believes in collaboration between organizations, and that the education and empowerment of parents is the first step in creating a new future for children (and families) that have been diagnosed with cancer.
Kim is asked to advise, consult and contribute to many endeavors within the professional childhood cancer care community, and has helped to launch a new study in collaboration with Yale University to begin to explore the maternal health symptoms in pediatric cancer survivorship. In honor of her commitment to families, Kim was the recipient of the first annual Community Star Award presented by Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota's Cancer and Blood Disorders Program in 2014, before relocating to Florida that same year. Kim holds a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Business Administration. She currently resides in Jacksonville with her husband, Howard, and two children, Matthew (ALL Leukemia survivor) and Erikah.
Sharla Sanders is the founder of the Momcology Retreat program and is a board member of Momcology. Her son, Austin, was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma (a rare form of eye cancer) in 2009. She quickly learned how to navigate an unfamiliar world full of chemotherapy and surgery with her son. This new life led Sharla to feeling isolated, stressed and exhausted. These feelings motivated her to create a weekend retreat focusing on restorative self-care for moms of children diagnosed with pediatric cancer. In 2014, she collaborated with Momcology, and became the Director of Momcology Retreats where she has built a program to bring a weekend of restoration and wellbeing to mothers of children diagnosed with cancer. Currently, Momcology holds 8-10 restorative retreats per year in cities across the United States.
Sharla believes it is through connection that we begin to heal. She has seen first hand the healing that has taken place at these retreats through connection, massage, yoga, nutrition, art therapy, meditation and much more.
Sharla has a degree in Holistic Ministry from The American Institute of Holistic Theology and a Coaching certification from The Centre for Coach Training. She is an author, empowerment speaker, and community connector and has coached women since 1997. Sharla has served on several pediatric cancer boards in the past including Daisy's Eye Cancer Fund and Candlelighters for Children with Cancer. She currently resides in Vancouver, Washington with her two boys, Austin (Retinoblastoma Survivor) and Dalton.
Mindy is a true champion of childhood cancer research. She understands the importance of supporting medical research to ensure kids diagnosed with cancer have the chance for a long healthy life. Mindy’s passion is a result of her son Connor’s very brave encounter with brain cancer.
Mindy is also the Community Outreach Coordinator for Children’s Cancer Research Fund. In her role she connects with other families going through what is so familiar to her-navigating the world of childhood cancer. She has witnessed and experienced more hope, compassion and perseverance than many. Her personal experience has also motivated her desire to help other parents and caregivers find the support they need and she is honored to do so.
Justine Zirbes is a founding member and board member of Momcology. Her son, Axel, was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL) at age 3 in 2010. She recognized the need for peer support on Axel's first day in the hospital. When she inquired about meeting other mothers traveling the childhood cancer journey, she was told just to "meet them in the waiting room." Those first few months were a blur of fear, and anxiety, with only a few people to lean on who really understood the pain of treating your child with chemotherapy. Eventually, she met another mom who felt the same way she did, and their bond sparked the movement to connect families with the purpose of creating a community of families who value the opportunity to learn and heal through peer support. Momcology was born from this friendship and effort. Justine currently participates in board decisions, welcomes new Momcology members, and has a supporting role in Midwest Momcology Retreats.
Justine has a B.A. in Mass Communication from the College of St. Benedict, and works full time as a television producer in the Minneapolis market at NBC affiliate station KARE11, bringing childhood cancer awareness to her audience at every opportunity. Justine has served on several Children's Hospital of Minnesota event committees including co-chairing their signature event for pediatric oncology, Shine Bright Bash. She resides in Minneapolis with her husband, Brian, and her children, Carter, Axel (remission from ALL), and twins, Ruby and Hazel.
Cat's son Luca was diagnosed in 2008 with a brain tumor at 15 months old. Luca's tumor, Ependymoblastoma, was particularly rare and she found it difficult to find other parents to connect with and learn from. In her search for other families she found Momcology and through the organization was able to locate resources and find other families in similar circumstances. Cat values the peer to peer support Momcology provides the pediatric cancer world and is excited to help broaden the reach of Momcology through in person support programs throughout the country.
Cat has a BA in Arts Management with focus in Music, Theatre and Business Management from Adrian College, Adrian, MI. After working as a Risk Manager for a mortgage company in Philadelphia, Cat spent nearly 10 years home with her children. Cat now works as a Commercial Lines Claims Advocate for KMRD Partners and volunteers for many non-profit organizations in the pediatric cancer community. She currently lives outside Philadelphia, PA with her husband Tony and three children, Nino (16), Luca (10, Brain Tumor Survivor) and Bella (8).
Like many of us, Miriam felt alone and scared when her middle daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2014. Despite the support of friends and family, she desperately needed a community of parents who understood the unique challenges, fears (and sometimes even joys) that went along with helping your child fight cancer. Miriam connected with other parents by becoming an active member of Momcology's online supportive community, and was lucky enough to attend one of Momcology's restorative retreats. Since that time, Miriam has taken on a leadership role by assisting with Momcology retreats and by helping create and run Momcology's first hospital based in-person support group at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Miriam has a BA in American Culture, and a doctorate (Psy.D.) in psychology. She currently works full time as a neuropsychologist in South Jersey. Miriam lives with her husband, Paul, and her three daughters: Rebecca, Eliana (off treatment from ALL), and Lilah.
Julie’s son, Alex, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma at age 12 in early 2014. It was this journey through childhood cancer that Julie personally experienced the essential need of peer support for parents of children diagnosed with cancer. When you first hear the words no parent wants to hear, “your child has cancer,” you are terrified and don’t know where to turn for support, as most people you know haven’t been through this. Julie felt alone and isolated. Her entire family was affected by the diagnosis. Momcology was an opportunity to connect with other moms who had been through this same journey.
Julie is an advocate for childhood cancer awareness, funding and research. It has inspired her to give back to the two organizations that are very near and dear to her heart. Momcology has had such a profound impact on Julie, she joined the Momcology team as a retreat facilitator and board member. She is very passionate about connecting with and supporting other moms on this journey. Julie has also started a guild at Seattle Children’s, named “Cure Every Kid” as a way to give back to the hospital that saved her son’s life. Julie is a committee member on the event host team for Strong Against Cancer’s annual Celebration event which raises funds and awareness of immunotherapy research.
Julie has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Social Work and a minor in Theology from Seattle University. Julie currently resides in Bellevue, Washington with her husband, Tanguy, and three children, son Alex (Lymphoma survivor), daughter Caitlin and son Lucas.