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Student chronicles mother’s cancer battle in Redbook

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Student chronicles mother’s cancer battle in Redbook
By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant

Oakland University student Jessica Deliz can picture the stormy summer day that brought the news of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. She remembers the torrent of emotions that her family faced as they struggled to come to grips with a life-altering situation. Fear loomed as her mother prepared to undergo rounds of grueling, though ultimately successful, chemotherapy treatments. 

More than four years have passed since then, and now the family’s story is being featured in the October 2013 issue of Redbook Magazine in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In a special section on breast cancer survivors, the magazine contains an excerpt of an interview Deliz conducted with her mother, Joann, as part of an assignment in a business writing class at OU. Deliz said she had originally planned to interview her father about being a successful business owner, but instead decided “to get the inside scoop” on what her mother was going through in the midst of her cancer diagnosis.

“I was trying to get a deeper understanding of what was going on in her mind and how her life changed as a result of the diagnosis,” said Deliz, a senior majoring in Human Resource Development. “I wanted to know her true emotions and the interview was a great way to capture the amazing outcome that came from such a horrible trial.”

Deliz’s Redbook profile was compiled by Storycorps, a national oral history project that has collected and archived more than 45,000 interviews with nearly 90,000 participants over the past decade. Each conversation is preserved at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress and many stories have been featured on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” 
Joann and Jessica Deliz
Deliz's interview was recorded during the summer of 2012 when the Storycorps Mobile Booth was in the Detroit area collecting oral histories. The course instructor, Cornelia Pokrzywa, saw the project as a way to blend student learning with community engagement. 

“I have had students record interviews and conduct oral histories in previous class projects, but having the StoryCorps Mobile Booth in town gave these students a high-quality recording with the very best possible experience,” Pokrzywa said. “This was a great way to get students in the community to experience learning outside the classroom walls.” 

She added, “I was also very pleased to hear that Jessica's interview was selected for publication in Redbook. Recording and preserving that interview will not only give Jessica's family a lasting record of that challenging time in their lives, but it will also serve as an inspiration to the many women who are served by the Deliz family's Believe Foundation.”

The Deliz family formed the Believe Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to raise money for cancer patients, wounded veterans and needy families during the holidays. In addition, Jessica’s father Jim created the “The Curable Towel,” which has been waved at Detroit sports events to show support for breast cancer research and other causes. In 2011, the Believe Foundation partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to give towels to the first 50,000 fans at the Detroit Lions Monday Night Football game.

“The foundation has been such a blessing,” Deliz said. “The whole experience has brought my family closer together and allowed us to give back in a positive way. Giving is so much more satisfying than receiving, and that is why we do what we do.” 

For more on the Believe Foundation, visit the website at Deliz’s interview can be found in the October 2013 issue of Redbook Magazine. To read her interview, click here

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