Cancer Plus 1 playing for more than $2 million in TBT 2018


By: Ben Swanson | @bj_swanny

Bernice Nelson is looking to make an impact both on and off the court in #TBT2018

When Bernice Nelson’s fiancée lost his battle to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on March 3rd, 2013, she knew she had a mission in front of her. That same day, Nelson submitted paperwork creating Cancer Plus 1, a non-profit dedicated to sharing the experiences of young people affected by cancer.

“It started with the simple notion of helping other young people navigate the cancer experience,” said Nelson. “The name Cancer Plus One is an entendre on being a “plus one” when you’re invited to a party, the party isn’t necessarily for you, you’re just an invitee. I didn’t have cancer, but I was a caregiver in the process, so you experience all of those symptoms without the diagnosis.”

The organization’s first act was publishing The Cancer Diaries, a book in which Nelson and eight other young people affected by cancer share their path through fighting the disease. Several volumes of these stories have been released since, as the non-profit has grown to provide more support, including helping people apply for government benefits, launching a chat app that connects people to others who have experienced cancer, and providing “Chemo Goons” to sit with patients during treatments who don’t have anyone else.

Up next for the group? Trying to promote the mission on a national stage by becoming part of the first class of teams to enter through a buy-in spot in TBT this summer. 



“We’re hoping that when people see our team and name, they say ‘what the heck is that?’ and they go to our site and find some kind of inspiration or hope,” said Nelson. “If they are going through something similar, they can join the group and we can be a resource for them, or if someone is in a financial position to help push forward the cause, we welcome that as well.”

Nelson won’t just be promoting her team either, she’ll be coaching it. Although she has no official coaching experience, Nelson has been deeply involved with the sport from a young age, serving as a statistician for her brother who would go on to play at Oakland University. Following his graduation, Nelson became a licensed FIBA and NBA agent to continue her involvement in his basketball career.

Now a program director for the federal government while she finishes her PhD at the University of Maryland, Nelson believes she has always been able to earn the respect of everyone in the room. Between her work as an agent and growing up with nine male siblings, Nelson says part of her inspiration to coach is to show her daughter and niece that you can succeed as a woman in a male dominated field.

“I grew up surrounded by men and, after studying law, went in to a very male dominated field as well,” said Nelson. “I want my daughter to know she can do anything, even it is a whole room of guys.”

As the Cancer Plus One roster is assembled, whether Nelson calls on former clients, teammates of her brothers, or hometown connections, the most meaningful bond is their collective belief in the group’s cause.

“Everyone has been very supportive of what we have been doing with the app and other projects, and have been touched in some way by cancer,” said Nelson. “So everyone is behind this movement, and is ready to go out and win some money for it.”

To read more about Cancer Plus One's mission, visit