Surviving college after the loss of a parent
David Fajgenbaum created Students of AMF to support grieving college students. He is pictured here with his mom, Anne Marie Fajgenbaum, who died when David was a college sophomore.
September 3rd, 2012
04:27 AM ET

Surviving college after the loss of a parent

By Katherine Dorsett Bennett, CNN

(CNN) - David Fajgenbaum started his freshman year of college as a pre-med student at Georgetown University with much anxiety - worrying about his mother's failing health. His mom, Anne Marie Fajgenbaum, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor just two weeks before he started classes.

"We placed my mom in Hospice about two months before she passed away, just as I was beginning my sophomore year, so I drove home every weekend to Raleigh, North Carolina, for those two months to see her," he said.

David had a couple of close friends he could confide in about his mother's situation, but he felt they couldn't relate to or understand the pain he was going through. "It's not an easy thing to bring up at a party or that anyone wants to talk about in the cafeteria," he said.

After a tough battle, David's mother passed away on October 26, 2004. His family held her memorial service a few days after her death and then David immediately returned back to school.

"Since I was pre-med, I decided to focus my efforts on fighting back against cancer, and I was able to connect my studies with honoring my mom, so I actually was able to do very well academically," he noted.

While David excelled in his studies, he struggled personally through her illness and passing. He knew he could speak with counselors at Georgetown, but he felt what he really needed was the opportunity to speak with other students going through the same experience that he was.

Her death prompted him to form an organization called Students of AMF -  a dual acronym for "Ailing Mothers and Fathers" that later changed to “Actively Moving Forward” - and his mother's name, Anne Marie Fajgenbaum.

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