Meet our Scholars

Years Awarded:
2022-2023

Surviving cancer has changed the goals I have for my education and my future career. More importantly, cancer has changed who I am. I am a survivor and I always will be!

I was only fourteen years old when I was diagnosed with a follicular variant of papillary carcinoma thyroid cancer. My whole family was shocked, and I spent the first couple of days wondering, “Why me?” Following my diagnosis, I had surgery to remove my thyroid, multiple lymph nodes, and tumors in my neck. While going through this severe diagnosis and hospitalization, a child life specialist came and talked to me. She treated me with empathy, care, and respect. That moment and her visit profoundly impacted my life. I knew right then and there that if I had the chance to survive cancer and grow up into adulthood, I would want to be just like this woman who met with me. I did some research and committed to pursuing a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences with a concentration in Child Life, so I can help kids who are faced with the same things I have faced. A couple of months after my surgery, I had radiation therapy and about a year later was deemed cancer-free. I have received three more yearly reports since then that have been clear as well. I am still a survivor and I plan to use my survival to help others in the days ahead.

Cancer didn’t only give me a clear educational and career goal, it also changed me as a person. Though receiving a cancer diagnosis is scary, it has taught me at least four life lessons. First, cancer taught me to find beauty, even in ugly circumstances. Whether it was the kindness of my caretakers, the love of my family, or, the encouragement of my classmates, my cancer battle allowed others to step up and into a level of care and concern that I didn’t realize people were capable of. The beauty of their love and support shined through the ugliness of the cancer.

Secondly, I learned to persevere when faced with something overwhelming. Giving up simply wasn’t an option for me. Today, when I face something hard, I think about surviving cancer and think, “Well, if I beat that, I can overcome this!” Thirdly, I also learned the power of unity. My diagnosis brought my entire school together. Regardless of cultural or social differences, every classmate worked together on a banner that the school leadership delivered to my hospital and recovery room. This gesture of unity encouraged me and reminded me I wasn’t alone. When I returned to school after my recovery, it seemed like everyone was much closer and my cancer diagnosis was a catalyst for that unity. Finally, cancer helped me discover my ability to influence and lead. It gave me a platform to tell my story and influence others. Being a survivor has helped me develop into the leader I am today.

Surviving cancer has changed the goals I have for my education and my future career. More importantly, cancer has changed who I am. I am a survivor and I always will be!