Laura Sharpe is helping survivors of traumatic experiences recover and thrive through art

After surviving a helicopter crash where she broke 43 bones and had 40 percent of her body burnt, Laura Sharpe learned a lot about herself and how the power of creativity can help while recovering. Now she's helping survivors of other traumatic events recover and thrive through art.

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A doctor addresses fertility options in young female cancer survivors

Ten years ago, on a blustery Chicago day, eight friends trudged through the snowy downtown – an unfortunately common thing to do in the Windy City during the winter months. Their agenda that day, however, was rather uncommon. Instead of just going to brunch or heading to a matinee, they were meeting with a researcher at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University to talk about how to best use the money they’d raised for cancer research. 

That day they met with Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., the pioneer of oncofertility, a blended study of oncology and reproductive medicine in young female cancer patients. Today, Dr. Woodruff runs the Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern where a team of oncologists, fertility specialists, social scientists, educators and policy makers help her take her research to the clinical level. Just this year, in fact, Dr. Woodruff placed 112 on Time Magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people, the only scientist to make the cut.

When Dr. Woodruff first met those eight friends, they were introduced as the founding members of The H Foundation, an organization created to make a difference in the fight against cancer. They spent the afternoon talking about how The H Foundation got its start as nothing more than a party hosted by a group of friends who’d all been affected by cancer.  

In 2001, the group threw its first Goombay Bash and every summer since then, they’ve hosted it as their largest fundraising event. The casual Caribbean-style party – along with a handful of other H Foundation events – have helped the group raise more than $5 million. Since the very beginning, the majority of those funds have been donated to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, where Dr. Woodruff worked as the science director. 

At that same time, she was also working “her second day job” as a reproductive endocrinologist. Both took place at Northwestern, and both were leading her toward new ways of thinking about the effects cancer treatments can have on fertility in young female patients.  

“We were having a large number of women surviving their disease,” Dr. Woodruff recalled. “But that also brought to light the women who were having profound problems with menopause symptoms as well as with the ability to get pregnant.”

As a reproductive scientist, Dr. Woodruff recognized the urgent, unmet need of these young cancer survivors and began looking into ways that the medical community might be able to provide fertility options. Her studies, however, were making her question why, in a time of so many medical breakthroughs, there weren’t more options for young women. 

“Men were being offered options like sperm banking,” she said, “but women who were surviving the disease weren’t really being told about the fertility threat of their chemotherapy or radiation.”  

Those questions would later lead her to sex differences research, a different area of study that she’s involved in to “think equally about male and female biology in a way that will improve the health of all of us.” This work was the focus of her recent interview with 60 Minute’s Leslie Stahl, tentatively scheduled for broadcast sometime this fall.

From a family of teachers

Before Dr. Woodruff found her passion for medicine, she assumed she’d be a teacher, and she was excited about that. Both her mother and her grandmother had been first-grade teachers, and her father was a professor of biblical literature at a local university.   

“My mom always says that first-grade is the grade when everyone goes from not knowing to knowing,” Dr. Woodruff muses. “From not being able to tie your shoes to being able to tie your shoes. From not knowing how to say your alphabet to knowing how to spell.”

Although she didn’t become a third-generation first-grade teacher, one of the things that she enjoys about her job the most is being able to communicate reproductive science in a broad way.

“Many times, people think that they understand reproductive health, but they might not understand everything about their own reproductive health,” she explains. “It’s incumbent on each of us in the profession to communicate effectively so that people can make better decisions for themselves and their families.”

With that underlying drive to serve as an educator, Dr. Woodruff began teaching at the Oncofertility Saturday Academy and later at the Infectious Diseases Summer Academy, workshops she created that allow high school girls to explore science in a way that they might never have imagined possible.

“Somewhere along the line, so many girls who had a passion for science were told that they couldn’t do it. Or, they might have thought that the only thing to do in science was to become a medical doctor,” Dr. Woodruff says, explaining the disconnect young females might have with the field of science. “But there are so many other professions that you can pursue if you have an interest in science.” 

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The residents of Boulder step up after massive flood destroyed their homes, but not their spirits

Somewhere in Colorado, a house now sits in a creek bed. It wasn’t always there, sitting in a few feet of water and mud. It was wasn’t always part of the creek. It was moved there, not by man or machine, but by mother nature.

“Someone had emailed me about this gentleman, James, and I walked a half mile over to his house and found him by himself there and his house is still actually in the creek...”

Aly Niklas is the media relations coordinator for Donate Boulder, the grass roots volunteer effort that sprang to life in a big way following the devastating floods in Colorado in early September.

Set up initially as an online notice board in the community of Boulder, Donate Boulder was sparked by the desire of so many to help their community and was driven by social media. DonateBoulder.org is set up specifically for citizen volunteers to help other citizens in the community to do any dirty job that needs to be done. The site itself is an interactive map with notices posted at locations where help is needed, and volunteers from the community can sign up to go out and help at that location, doing anything from excavating a home of mud, moving personal belongings, or simply lending a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen.

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Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch witnesses emotional and physical healing on a daily basis

It takes a broken heart to know one; it takes a healed broken heart to help one heal. This is the foundation of Kim Meeder’s work, Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch. A “ranch of rescued dreams,” it’s a ministry for hurting children and horses located in Bend, Ore., that has also mentored other such ministries throughout Canada and the United States.

Meeder is on a mission to save young lives headed for disaster before it’s too late, offering hope and love to those who have none. She is living proof that no matter what tragedies we face, we shouldn’t give up. 

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When things seemed to be at their worst, a single mom's luck turned around

Jordan Camden* is, hands-down, the cutest kid on the planet. Just ask his mom, Desiree*; she’ll tell you all about it. But, before you go denying him the title, assuming that every mom recites that very same thing, it’s important to understand that Desiree’s not alone in her opinion. Anyone who comes in contact with his big brown eyes and his lady-killer lashes agrees.

But don’t let his good looks fool you. Jordan can also be a handful. At one and a half years old, he’s already a talkaholic. And, like most toddlers, he’s incredibly active and sociable, begging for attention at every turn.  

“Any time he sees someone, he holds his arms out and wants them to pick him up,” Desiree says. “But I tell them not to because once you put him down, he gets upset and starts crying. He jumps up and down and throws a tantrum. He’s one of those kids.”

In that same breath, though, Desiree says it’s all worth it. She goes on to explain that Jordan is a happy-go-lucky child, just like she was. She says that no matter the circumstances, he has a certain way of putting a smile on her face.   

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