Meet Brandon Staple, a survivor of ALL who is studying to one day deliver the next generation of medication, therapies, and surgeries for kids just like him. Survivors of pediatric cancer overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to fight their cancer, regain their health, and live a normal childhood. That’s why PCRF is committed to improving the quality of life for those affected by pediatric cancer by offering annual scholarship awards to cancer warriors and survivors.
“What do I want others to know about me? That I’m a survivor and I’m embracing a “new normal”.
When I contemplate being a cancer survivor, the phrase that’s seared in my mind is a “new normal”. “New” because it connotates a fresh perspective of how I intend to conduct my life after my diagnosis and “Normal” because it designates a purposefully-focused reality on thriving for the remainder of my life. So, for me being a survivor means fully embracing a New Normal of positive lifetime engagements that enhances the wellbeing of those impacted by my disease (i.e., myself, my family and friends, my caregiver and advocates, other survivors, and the wider community).
With the context above, survivorship, therefore, means being personally empowered to pursue the transformative opportunities that seemed unattainable before my diagnosis. For example, raised a poor and dyslexic African-American with few socioeconomic opportunities, I was unable to see a successful future. So, when I was diagnosed with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), my disease compounded my situation causing severe physical pain, depression, and despair. Luckily, I was treated by one of the nation’s most prominent pediatric oncologists who became my mentor and empowered me with unstoppable confidence to excel. So, driven by an insatiable desire to understand my disease, I developed a life-altering academic discipline that gave me unique advantages in understanding complex concepts, like ALL chromosomal abnormalities. Thus, my disease transformed me into a highly-accomplished student who was one of the ten nationwide, accepted into the prestigious BS/ MD program at the University of Colorado, directly out of high school. Now, I’m achieving my goal of completing my pre-med undergraduate Biology degree and advancing to become a prominent Pediatric Oncologist. I plan to leverage advanced capabilities, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), to gain new insights into the complex genetic aberrations that underlie diseases, like ALL. This will enable me to deliver the next generation of personalized therapies to children. Next year, I’ll be a junior preparing for the MCATs, continuing my undergraduate education, and performing undergraduate research to shed light on the etiology of childhood ALL.
Additionally, survivorship means serving as an effective leader in oncology-related professional and community organizations, like the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This is enabling me to improve my knowledge of the developments in the oncology-field, championing patient rights, and helping to advance research that accelerates the delivery of new agents for cancer.
With regard to my connections, survivorship means mending those broken relationships that existed within my friends and family before my diagnosis, strengthening those that were already solid, and cherishing new ones. Likewise, for my caregivers and advocates, survivorship means acknowledging their sacrifices and working to enhance their welfare. Similarly, it means providing genuine empathy and encouragement to other survivors.
As I take the next steps in life, I’ll fully embrace my “New Normal” of enhancing my health and the well-being of those impacted by my disease.”
You have the power to help kids, like Brandon, become cancer-free and live a healthy life beyond their diagnosis. Now is the time to become a vital part of advancing pediatric cancer research. Our scholarship program can grow and reach even more students and families with your support, please share with a student or your community about this opportunity.
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