Meet our scholar recipients
Meet Maya Keesey
"If I had never gone through the experience of battling leukemia, I would have never been given the opportunity to do the swim in the first place. Without overcoming these challenges, I cannot say I would be the same person I am today. I am a survivor."
The summer of 2017, I accomplished a 3.3 mile swim across Lake Geneva. Now, by no means am I an athlete, so I would have never imagined it would be possible to complete such a strenuous swim. Looking back, I now realize the journey I took, crossing that lake, paralleled what I went through five years earlier, as an eleven year old. My accomplishments of surviving cancer and swimming across the lake, though are both very different, have shaped me into the young woman I am today.
Similar to the day I was diagnosed with leukemia, as I waited on the dock to begin my swim, I was unaware and fearful of what lay ahead. During both of these times in my life, I had many people cheering me on from the sidelines, but none of them were totally aware of what I was going through. I watched as others struggled with me and cheered them on even when I was struggling myself, unsure of whether or not we would make it to the finish line. When it came down to it, I was in the middle of the lake, unable to see land or touch the ground underneath me, and tied to a boat. While there were others around me and supporting me, I ultimately had to rely on myself to get through. This was no different than getting through all of the chemo, needles, and baldness that came with having cancer. I found myself relying on the same little things to get me through both of these challenges: listening to music, creating relationships with the people who were caring for me (whether they be doctors or lifeguards), talking to people who were going through the same thing, and encouraging myself as I looked ahead. The final push to finish my swim was reminiscent of coming to the end of treatment. Being tethered to a boat was very similar to how the cancer was attached to me; at the end of it all I got to let go and finish on my own, with shaky legs, battle scars, and this feeling of exhilaration.
As I reflect on the similarities of my incredible trials with water and cancer, I am able to see what I have taken away from these experiences as well. Both cancer and the lake swim took me outside of my comfort zone, where perseverance and self-reliance were necessary. Each of these journeys helped me learn a remarkable amount about myself and realize that I can do things I never would have imagined, even when it feels like an insurmountable challenge. I am grateful for these experiences and all they have taught me. I have learned that accepting help from others does not mean a person is weak and offering help to someone else only makes a person stronger. Today, I strive to live every day of my life as if it were my last, grateful for everything I am given, and eager for adventure.
Since my swim and my battle with leukemia, I have been inspired to take on more challenges that test me and help me grow as I move forward in life, even when I am scared and unsure of the future. If I had never gone through the experience of battling leukemia, I would have never been given the opportunity to do the swim in the first place. Without overcoming these challenges, I cannot say I would be the same person I am today. I am a survivor.