Meet our scholar recipients

From the mountain of cancer I hope to remember my perseverance, the people who helped me on the climb, and know that if I was able to climb that mountain, then most other obstacles will be foothills.

After reaching the highest point in my life last summer both literally and figuratively, I found out that I have cancer. Last summer, I went backpacking and mountaineering in Peru with a group of students from Portland and reached 18,000+ feet. Standing on the mountain summit, I looked down and saw all the hard work of the climb and the physical and mental feat I had just completed. I was surrounded by friends both old and new and we were all able to share in this great accomplishment.

My summer had been filled with so many outdoor adventures and as I embarked on my senior year I was looking forward to the best year yet, capped off by graduation. During junior year, I worked hard taking the SAT, enrolling in numerous AP classes and also balancing sports and a social life. All these things seemed extremely important and I saw them as the indicators of success. But in a few months, they would be simple numbers and nothing in comparison to the treatment I was about to start.

My senior year began and I had a disappointing cross country season. In response, I gave myself room to breathe, telling myself that it was okay because I was pouring my heart into so many things, it only made sense that some things had to suffer. The pain I was experiencing worsened and a month later, I received news I had never expected: I had cancer. I was in disbelief and knew that this was not in my plan for senior year or really, in my plan for life. I slowly learned how to cope with my diagnosis and found strength in the adversity. At first, it seemed like my whole world was rocked and for days I couldn’t imagine how the rest of my senior year would look. Would I graduate? Would I even be able to go to college next year? All these special events were now in question and I was both worried and afraid of what my life would now be like.

Throughout my cancer treatment, I was connected to so many other survivors as well as many people who are currently going through treatment. Being a survivor means getting to be part of a small group of people who know what you have gone through while many other people don’t. Additionally, being a survivor makes all these problems in your life seem so small. Not only does having a cold or runny nose seem like nothing, but whenever I’m fighting with my friends I remember the obstacles I’ve overcome and how that if I got through that, then I can settle a disagreement.

Being diagnosed with cancer was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. At first, I had no idea what to do with myself or with the fear of the upcoming months. While my senior year was nothing like I ever expected, it showed me how incredibly strong I am. Not only can my veins withstand literal poison, but I handled it with grace and poise. These past few months have tested me physically and emotionally, allowing me to become a better person for myself and those around me. I hope that in the future whenever I’m having a bad day I can have the perspective similar to that of standing on a mountain. Like last summer, I had to work hard physically and emotionally to get to the summit of becoming a survivor. I have gained insight and experience from each of those figurative and literal summits. From the mountain of cancer I hope to remember my perseverance, the people who helped me on the climb, and know that if I was able to climb that mountain, then most other obstacles will be foothills.