Meet our scholar recipients

For me survivorship means living my life to the fullest unapologetically. Other children like Corey were not given a second chance, so it is my job to make the most of mine.

“Hi!” I got off the bus and whizzed past my sister, peeling with laughter, “Bye!” I rushed through the door throwing my backpack on the ground and jumped into my father’s arms. Everything seemed perfect, but as my father and I looked in the mirror smiling, he uttered a few words that would change our lives forever.

“What’s that bump above your lip?” he said. I giggled, shrugging my shoulders, oblivious to what he was talking about. He began to feel my face, and the mood soon changed to something much more serious. The next day I went to the doctor, who ran countless tests. The doctors spoke to my parents privately, but I could hear them crying from my seat in the other room. When I came back into the room, my mother was gripping onto my father’s arm. “Ca-ca-ca-Cancer” my mother screamed, as she broke down in tears. As a seven-year-old, I didn’t understand what this alien word meant, but I soon would. It was a malignant tumor above my lip, enveloping my cheek.

As my face morphed, so did everything else. I no longer went to school and I practically lived at the hospital. My new home wasn’t all bad though, because I soon met one of my best friends. His name was Corey, and he was an eleven-year-old boy with the same cancer as me. He was always smiling and skipping around the hospital. Everyone loved Corey. Corey especially loved the lady nurses. “You should take some notes,” he’d say.

The one thing Corey and I talked about most was the golden bell patients would ring once they were cancer-free. “One day that will be us ringing it,” he’d whisper reverently. And then we would laugh, the somber moment breaking, and move on to the next thing.

As time went by, Corey and I underwent harrowing chemotherapies and countless surgeries. Our bald heads, purple under eye circles, and frail bodies were mirror images. Yet, internally, we were polar opposites. With each MRI, my doctor would hold the scans to the light projector and point at the shrinking snowball. My treatment was working. Corey was not so lucky. Soon, as the cancer grew inside him, he was unable to walk the halls on his own. He was a shell of himself, worsening as I got better. First, he lost his hearing, then his eyesight, and eventually, when he had nothing left to give, the cancer took him.

The day had arrived. The last chemotherapy. My family was elated, but I was still weak, still sick, and now filled with insurmountable guilt. “Why me? Why am I alive?” I wondered at the face in the mirror, remembering the other bald boy with dark circles. Why did we meet different fates?

The last chemo was the worst. I felt like I was dying, too weak to sit up and too guilty to feign a brave face for my family. But, I owed it to my lost friend to make it through. After my parents packed up my stuffed animals and all remnants of me from the hospital room, they wheeled me to the bell that Corey and I fantasized about. With my last ounce of strength, I gripped the bronze handle. I pictured the bald boy I remembered and, at the same time, pictured the hair he should have had, the healthy skin and strong eleven-year-old body he was robbed of. I rang the bell for both of us.

For me survivorship means living my life to the fullest unapologetically. Other children like Corey were not given a second chance, so it is my job to make the most of mine. I made it my goal to help kids like Corey and all the other kids whose lives were stolen from them by cancer. I want to become a beacon, for the kids who are sitting in hospital rooms now, fighting the monster that took me years to defeat. I hope to be the oncologist who discovers new research to ensure no child suffers the same fate as Corey.