Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award Nominee - Haley Bellows & Rachel Morrell
All 'Eff Cancer' T-Shirt Profits Go Toward Treatment
Can the creator of a line of T-shirts help to save her own life – and that of others?
With the help of a newly created T-shirt, Haley Bellows, 21-year-old college student and cancer patient, is on a mission to fight her Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The inspiration initially came by happenstance. As Rachel Morell tells it now, the initial offer was a bit of a joke. “I’ll buy you anything you want,” she told Bellows.
The two had become fast friends, ever since Bellows worked under Rachel’s husband Jonathan as a resident advisor at George Fox University in Newburg, OR. They bonded quickly over their contagious laughter.
But there was no laughter at this moment. Sitting on Morrell’s office floor, Bellows was laid low by a double-whammy of grim news: The lymphoma, which had gone into complete remission just four months earlier, was back, and now she was told there was colon cancer as well.
Morrell offered what she could. As the sole proprietor of Ramalama Enterprises and the primary screen-printer for many of the groups at George Fox, at the very least she could order shirts and print something. Presented with the open-ended invitation, Bellows grumbled a throw-away request: “All I can think is ‘Eff Cancer.’”
Morrell took the request to heart. Without Bellows’ knowledge, she ordered sweatshirts for the two of them and an additional 20 Gildan T-shirts. On them, she printed a plain-spoken “Eff Cancer” design. While printing the shirts, she posted a picture on Instagram and offered to sell the shirts for $20 with all proceeds going to Bellows (whose insurance had just been dropped from her stepfather’s job). “Before I got home from printing them,” says Morrell, “I had pretty much sold out of them.”
And so it has gone since April, with about 450 shirts sold – many to George Fox students and community members, some to people Bellows has never met. All of the profit goes directly to Bellows; at $15-plus per T-shirt, it has translated into nearly $7,000. “You’re LITERALLY keeping me alive,” Bellows wrote to Morrell at one point. It’s not hyperbole. “All the money that is incoming is literally putting treatment into my body,” Bellows says.
Bellows makes a point to wear her “Eff Cancer” T-shirt to every treatment. “It properly expresses how I feel,” says the Kalama, WA, native. “Cancer’s hard, and if I could I would use every cuss word in the book to describe it. I don’t know if it helps me to wear the shirt, but it’s a statement of how I feel.”
On campus, she is the Girl Who Has Cancer. With just about 2,000 undergraduates, it’s practically impossible at George Fox not to know the story of Haley Bellows. It was easier months before when Bellows had her hair and when Eff Cancer shirts weren’t so ubiquitous on campus. Fame in a small fishbowl has its pros and cons. “It’s been hard because a lot of people know me because I have cancer and not because of who I am as a person outside of that,” admits Bellows.
But she remains incredibly appreciative of the support she receives – the chance to connect with people from her past, to see “Eff Cancer” shirts pop up everywhere from Disney Land to Romania. The bright hues of the shirts populate campus and offer a visual symbol of day-to-day support that is not possible otherwise. “People are always texting her and Instagramming her and saying ‘I’m wearing my shirt for you today Haley. Thinking about you,’” says Morrell. “It’s awesome for Haley but it’s also been an important way for people to support her consistently.”