Childhood cancer survivors are more than four times more likely to have difficulty finding employment as compared with healthy people (Hewitt, Weiner, Simone 2003). Through these scholarships, PCRF is providing a tangible means of supporting quality of life for childhood cancer survivors. Our hope is to actively contribute to the long-term care of cancer survivors, giving them tools to succeed in their community and adult lives.
We’d like you to meet our 2018 PCRF Scholarship Awardees. We’re so incredibly inspired by their stories of strength, courage and resilience. Although a cancer diagnosis comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles, cancer helped Cecilia appreciate the little victories in life.
“After I was diagnosed with a desmoid tumor in my left leg at the end of my sophomore year, everything changed. Most importantly, I thought, I had lost the ability to play basketball. I lost what I woke me up early every day, and made me stay up a little later at night. My sense of purpose was lost.
I began playing competitive basketball when I was in third grade and continued through high school. In the summers, I traveled the country with my club team. I was even recruited by colleges as a freshman and sophomore. I was elected varsity captain as a freshman and every year since. Basketball was so much a part of my identity that I questioned what I was supposed to do without it. I failed to see a future where I didn’t play. Along with everything else, I had to deal with losing something I loved, and I was completely lost.
It wasn’t until recently that I came to peace with where I am in life. After my tumor resection surgery, the vascular surgeon told my parents I was an inch away from losing total function of my leg. My surgical oncologist said it was the hardest surgery he had ever done, as the tumor was embedded in my muscle and wrapped around my nerves and artery. I started to realize how lucky I am that I played again at all. I am lucky to be walking.
My outlook on life and who I am as a person has completely changed. My condition forced me to drop out of school during my junior year. In September 2015, I was absent for four months due to radiation therapy and surgery. When I came back in January, I was drowning, but determined to keep going. One day, however, it all hit me. The treatments, the surgeries, school, friends, the changes; it overwhelmed me. It was the first time I acknowledged that continuing like normal wasn’t going to work. I needed time to heal physically and emotionally.
By taking a year off and going to high school for a fifth year, I grew in so many ways. As I watched my best friends and classmates graduate without me, I had to accept that I was on my own journey. I rediscovered my love for learning by experiencing failure. When I had a recurrence this year and started chemotherapy, it provided a new challenge to keep my grades at the standard I hold myself to. On days when I am tired and sick from chemotherapy, I remember how grateful I am to be going to school.
My life had not gone at all like I planned. When I lost basketball, I lost what I thought was my identity. But that allowed me to get past what I thought defined me, and discover who was hiding underneath. I have so much more to offer to the world than a sport.”
You have the power to help kids, like Cecilia, become cancer-free and live a healthy life beyond their diagnosis. Help us continue our fight to find a cure.