Survivor Spotlight: Rachael Gottes

“#noregrets.” We have all seen this mantra of the modern adventurer. At the height of its popularity, it was often accompanied by a photo of a college experience that, while perhaps not regrettable, seemed truly forgettable (unless you get a tattoo and misspell your life motto, then you have an unforgettably regrettable memento for the rest of your life). Living with no regrets is actually a great goal, but accomplishing it requires so much more forethought and courage than simply hashtagging the phrase and posting it on social media. Doing so necessitates mentally reaching into the future to determine what you will still deem valuable in five, 10, and 30 years AND deciding to do whatever it takes to make that a reality today.

Rachael knows a little bit about that.

Actually, she knows a lot about that. As she will explain in a letter she recently sent us, Rachael Gottes (2014 Perpetual Scholar) is taking back the life cancer tried to steal from her and building it up to be one full of incredible experiences, memories, and potential. Reading her update, your unfulfilled dreams — aka regrets — may bubble up in your mind and make you feel like it is too late to be like Rachael. Well, it is never too late! Choosing to live abroad, mend that relationship, start that company, or change someone’s life takes a simple, resolute “yes.” Check out Rachael’s story below, and you will know exactly what I mean.

12473991_1134430626567754_4530586348736467465_oI am Rachael Gottes, 2014 Perpetual Scholarship Winner. Wow! It’s hard to believe I’ve been at Duke University for two years now. In those two years my life has done a couple of somersaults and I have actually come full circle.  I started college with a desire to make my career in plant biology and environmental studies; and while I still am drawn to those fields of study, I have decided to seek a career working with children and families struggling with life-threatening illnesses. In examining my own experiences, I find that my life has been profoundly touched by a few individuals and organizations who truly helped me embrace that cancer is not who I am, but something that I have experienced. With much thought about my future beyond my years at Duke, I came to the decision that I want to be such a guiding force for others. As a rising junior, I have declared a sociology major and a perspective psychology minor.  I hope one day to become a therapist or counselor in this field.

During the past year I lived for a month in Barcelona, and visited both Amsterdam and Prague. I will study abroad the upcoming fall semester in Madrid enrolled in a Spanish university, where all 11703104_1041253699218781_7056283094588233122_nmy classes will be taught in Spanish (yikes!). I enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer with an ESL program at my university and tutor 1st and 2nd grade children and their parents in improving reading, writing, and math skills in both Spanish and English; and again work with youth facing life-threatening illness by hosting proms and helping to make wishes come true.

I am looking forward to another amazing year at Duke, where I have made amazing friends and have found new confidence in myself and my abilities. My medical horizons remain bright – I was assigned a clean bill of health following my latest oncology visit. Even more, I’ve learned to focus my attention of the good things that resulted from my run-in with cancer – like my association with Cancer for College. I am profoundly grateful for your generosity and belief in me. None of this would have been possible had it not been for the support of your organization. Thank you.

12140103_1094322987245185_5147200462779166238_oAs I prepare for my semester abroad, I go forward with an enthusiasm for what lies ahead and exhilaration for the bounty of life. I want to experience new cultures, new people and new challenges in the year ahead.  A year ago I could not have predicted who or where I would be today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

I cannot thank you enough for believing in me with your generous financial support.


Rachael Gottes


Throughout its 23 years of existence, Cancer for College has made it possible for cancer survivors to choose to live without regrets and strive toward the future they always dreamed, and we have done so 1,081 times (and counting)! Every Cancer for College scholarship changes multiple lives, helping entire families feel hopeful again and touching those in need through the outreach of our selfless recipients. You can be part of helping a cancer survivor thrive again, by donating to people like Rachael today.


Pro Pic - CircleAbout the author: Mitch Friesen is a childhood cancer survivor, CFC scholarship recipient (2011-2014), and now works for Cancer for College as their Director of Growth & Community. Mitch graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Business Management and minor in Theology. A lifelong learner and lover of adventure, when Mitch is not catching up with all of the awesome CFC recipients, he can be found enjoying the outdoors with his bombshell of a wife (Abbey), watching/playing soccer, and drinking coffee.

Survivor Spotlight: Patrick O’Connor

O'Connor, Patrick [cropped]

Pacific Northwest perpetual scholar Patrick O’Connor (2015) thought he knew exactly what he loved when he entered college, and then life showed him a twist in the road. We have all experienced this (and if you say otherwise, your twist is right around the corner) and sudden changes often cause us to stop in our tracks and stress ourselves silly. Not so for Patrick, though! Uncharted territory is actually the exciting direction to which Patrick has shifted his focus.

As always, we love making cancer survivors’ dreams come true, and it is amazing when even our scholars are surprised when they discover what they are meant to do. College is an amazing time and place to encourage such enlightenment, and Patrick recently shared a life update with us in which he shares exciting news about just how influential his Cancer for College scholarship has been in the past year. Soak in the knowledge below, and learn from Patrick how you can respond to change and launch yourself into an exciting and fulfilling life.

This past year has been a crazy and exciting time in my life. I moved to Seattle back in September and love every moment of it! I’ve gotten the chance to eat at cool hole-in-the-wall restaurants, go to large festivals and events like Bumbershoot and a Seahawks game, and create a closely knit circles of amazing friends.

After living in Seattle for a bit and taking a geology class, I became drawn to the beauty of nature. I’ve started hiking around the Puget Sound, canoeing around Union Bay, and hammocking at Greenlake. I enjoy it so much that I decided to change my major from computer science to earth and space science with a focus in physics. I am thrilled to start taking more classes in my major and explore the opportunities available in my field.

Health wise, I only have a little more than a year left until I finish chemotherapy! While I did have some issues earlier this spring that slowed me down, I feel strong and healthy from working out and eating well. Since March, I have started to grow out my hair with the intention to donate it to others with cancer once my mane is long enough. I even got my port removed about a month ago in preparation for my travel plans in late August, which leads me to my next escapade: going to Costa Rica! A handful of my housemates and I are backpacking around Costa Rica for about a month. We will spend most of our time volunteering at a sea turtle conservation collecting data at beaches, maintaining the hatcheries, and making sure the little hatchlings make it safely to the ocean. I can’t wait to venture out into the biological beauty of a place so tropical and diverse.

Thank you very much for the scholarship, none of this would be possible without your hard work and dedication! I look forward to another year of late night studying, intellectual conversations, and, of course, spontaneous shenanigans.

There is nothing better than testing newfound waters by cannon-balling right into the deep end. We are so excited to hear how well you are doing, Patrick, and cannot wait to see what you discover in Costa Rica and throughout the upcoming school year!

To find out how you can help more cancer survivors like Patrick discover and fulfill their dreams, please visit


Pro Pic - CircleAbout the author: Mitch Friesen is a childhood cancer survivor, CFC scholarship recipient (2011-2014), and now works for Cancer for College as their Director of Growth & Community. Mitch graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Business Management and minor in Theology. A lifelong learner and lover of adventure, when Mitch is not catching up with all of the awesome CFC recipients, he can be found enjoying the outdoors with his bombshell of a wife (Abbey), watching/playing soccer, and drinking coffee.

Introducing CFC’s Perpetual 2016 Pacific Northwest Scholarship Recipient, Mitchell Carbon

Ah summer time in the Pacific Northwest! These are the days we can finally throw away our disheveled rain boots, let our small Ombrophobic dogs out to potty in the lawn without so much as a whimper and best of all, award our newest batch of Cancer for College scholarship recipients!

Each year CFC is gifted with hundreds of exceptional applicants, who not only defeated cancer but further proved that with tenacity, hard work and belief in ones self, anything is possible. Which is why we are beyond honored to award, Mitchell Carbon, with this years Pacific Northwest perpetual scholarship! Not only does Mitchell exemplify these qualities to their fullest but he takes it one step further by passionately giving back to those around him. This quality is why Mitchell will be spending his time at Whitworth University studying Community Health, all in an effort to help others who are suffering in their time of need. Check out Mitchell’s Q&A with CFC below to learn more about this extraordinary young man and be sure to come meet him at our Annual “Taste to Educate” event in Seattle January 2017!

Q&A with our Pacific Northwest Perpetual Scholarship Recipient, Mitchell Carbon.

Mitchell Carbon

What is your health like now (if you are comfortable sharing)?

My health is only moving in the right direction. In some ways I am still recovering but as time goes on my mind, body, and spirit all heal.

What are you looking forward to most about college?
Most of all I’m looking forward to a fresh start with new people. I love all the people who were with me throughout my journey but it will be nice to start fresh at a school where no one knows my medical history.

How do you want to use your cancer experience to help others/give back?
I don’t know exactly how yet but I want to use my experience to help people in some way. Whatever that may be, I want to better the lives of people with my understanding and compassion of people who are suffering like those who helped me.

What is something about yourself that you want others to know?
I want others to know that I’m just a regular person who had an extraordinary opportunity (one most people don’t get in life) to prove to the world what I am made of. I am really just like everyone else

What do you like to do in your spare time — e.g. hobbies?
I really like to spend time doing things with my friends. Especially watching movies! Step Brothers and Harry Potter are some of my favorites!

Do you have any idea what you might want to study in college?
I was really inspired by the people who took care of me during my journey. So I am thinking about teaching or being a nurse. I hope I can make a difference in someone’s life like my nurses and teachers did for me.

Best part of summer so far? One thing you want to do before summer ends?
Honestly, the best part of my summer this year has been getting ready for college. It’s such an exciting time normally for kids, but for me it’s even more exciting because I thought I would never be here. It’s beyond amazing to think I have a life without cancer to look forward to. One thing I want to do before this summer is over is getting in shape!

Survivor Spotlight: The (Nickolas) Main Event

On July 1, I got to be part one of the best days each year at Cancer for College: the day we contact applicants and inform them that they are won a Cancer for College scholarship. I experienced this myself back in 2011, when Craig Pollard called to tell me I would receive a CFC scholarship and made it possible for me to attend my first-choice school. I will never forget my feelings of shock and gratitude that left me near-speechless. As soon as the call ended, I jumped up from my family’s well-worn, blue couch to tell as my parents and siblings the good news.

This year, though, I was honored to be on the other end of the call, and was rocked by wave after wave of thankfulness, relief, and happy tears from recipients and their families.

It was awesome.

One call, in particular, sticks out to me. Every year, we award at least one perpetual scholarship, the recipient of which receives our highest-dollar scholarship for four years without needing to reapply! The only stipulation is for the perpetual scholarship to be given to an incoming freshman attending school in Southern California. This year, Nickolas Main was the deserving recipient.

There was just one problem…we could not get a hold of him.

We left messages. He would call back. We would be on the phone with another recipient, and he would leave a message. We would call back and the call would drop. It felt like a comical game of phone tag! Finally, after multiple attempts, we established a good connection but he did not have time to talk because he was heading into a panel at the Los Angeles Anime Expo.

That is when I realized Nickolas Main was much cooler than me. To make a long story short, we eventually connected to award Nick with his well-deserved perpetual scholarship. July 1 was the first day we had ever spoken with Nickolas, but we felt like we already knew him because we had poured over his application, and been caught up in his articulate and passionate essays describing his journey through cancer. We are excited to actually get to know him in person, and wanted to share some of his story with you because everyone should have the opportunity to be encouraged by this courageous survivor’s story.

With Nickolas’ permission, below is a portion of the essay from his application. We hope you are left changed after reading, and take the opportunity to meet Nickolas himself later this year, at our 23rd Annual Classy Golf Classic and Un-Gala After Party, on October 14 at Coronado Golf Course on Coronado Island.

Nick Main

Nickolas Main, 2016 Cancer for College Perpetual Scholarship Recipient

“Cancer. This word is so menacing in our society. A simple word can cause people to eat healthier, exercise more, wear more sunscreen, and go to the doctor for excessive check ups. The connotation behind the word being death, anything associated with this word is deemed a death sentence; yet as children we rarely, if ever, think about cancer. We go through our childhoods with an unfounded sense of immortality; yeah Grandpa got it, but that’s not me. We weave the fabric of our dreams with quick fluid motions; full of life and imagination, never imagining that one word could rip that fabric to shreds.


The loud ringing that muffled out the world ceases. As reality set in I became aware of what happened. He said cancer. The stupid bump on my arm that he said was a normal break so long ago was now cancer. My emotions broke through the flood gates. Fear and panic plagued my mind. I felt helpless as the impending mortality of the world closed in on my immortal dreams. I am too young to die. This thought rapidly raced through my mind. I would never go to college, never marry, and never have kids. I would never truly live. My thoughts turn from what would never be to what would; Chemo, tests, and surgeries all laid before me. The light that was my future, slowly diminished below the horizon and the darkness of death encompassed me.

As the depression of facing my dark new world set in, I saw my mother. Tears filled eyes and a horrified expression on her face. An expression as if she had not done enough to stop this unforeseeable force. The look in her eyes was a look of failure; failure to protect her child. She believed she was to blame for this happening to me. The more the tears streamed down her face the more I realized the pain this was causing her. She was the best mother I could have ever asked for, always there for me always caring. This amazing woman thought that, in this terrible moment, she failed at being my mother.

It was then that I made a vow to myself to not let cancer kill me. Cancer would not take away my smile, my laugh, or the precious moments with my family. I had no idea what the next day would bring but I knew I would face it with a brave heart, and all of my courage. I never again wanted to see the same pain that was on my mother’s face, so I chose not to. I chose to become an immovable rock for my family, never letting cancer kill my spirit. My family is one of the most important things to me, and I decided I would do anything for them. I realized I had something worth fighting for, and I wasn’t going to let a stupid word determine my future.


My battle with cancer has helped me realize what is going on in the world around me. To watch others battle cancer, to watch families devastated by this disease had been a life altering realization. The realization is that I can make a difference. I can share my story and show others that there is hope there is a reason to keep going. We have a Facebook page for supporters in my community. It is called “cancer cant kick Nick.” On this page I have watched strangers share stories of inspiration by me sharing my struggle. I have attended events that I have been pulled aside and told “your story kept me going, kept me fighting, you’re the reason Im here today”. I as a Christian young man feel God has called me to go out in the world share and make a difference. I wish to go to college to work in the film industry. I am hoping that in doing so I can share my story in the public light. That I can have my battle help in a larger scale to those around me. I know that my battle is still one day at a time, but reaching at least one person each day I move forward is the biggest difference I can make. Cancer will not define me but It has made me reach higher, go longer and know that I Nick Main can make a difference.


To find out how you can help more cancer survivors like Nick achieve their goal of graduating from college, please visit


Pro Pic - CircleAbout the author: Mitch Friesen is a childhood cancer survivor, CFC scholarship recipient (2011-2014), and now works for Cancer for College as their Director of Growth & Community. Mitch graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Business Management and minor in Theology. A lifelong learner and lover of adventure, when Mitch is not catching up with all of the awesome CFC recipients, he can be found enjoying the outdoors with his bombshell of a wife (Abbey), watching/playing soccer, and drinking coffee.

Fighting Cancer When You Don’t Have Cancer: 3 Tips for Comforting Cancer Patients

An old friend called this week, asking if I had any advice regarding how to help a 19-year old boy who is terminally ill with cancer. The question did not shock me. As a cancer survivor myself, I am a member of a club no one wishes to join, but a club that comes with the privilege of entrance into the most intimate aspect of life: sickness and mortality. Over the years, I have listened to countless people share the turmoil they experience as either they, or their loved one, battles this life-threatening disease. On multiple occasions, I visited a hospital room that was occupied by a cancer-fighting compatriot one day, and the next day was empty. I have been in the world of cancer too long to be shocked by the question posed by my friend; however, I will always be deeply saddened when cancer strikes, and cannot wait for the day when a cure is found.

How do you comfort someone facing cancer? I realized there are far too many people asking this question for me to remain silent. The following 3 tips are simply my own perspective – what I found helpful personally, and how I reached out to others. I hope it alleviates some of your anxiety, as you or a loved one wonders how to be there for someone who is battling cancer.

  1. Presence

Simply put: the best way to be there is to be there. There are times in every cancer


Three days after diagnosis, and two days post-op, all I needed was family to be there with me. (Photocred: Craig Friesen)

patient’s life when you do not want to be seen, particularly by those close to you, out of
embarrassment or exhaustion, but most often a cancer patient needs to know that they are not alone in their fight. And the easiest part is that you are not even obligated to DO
anything. That is the coolest thing about presence. A phone call or letter when you are unable to be physically present is also great. One aspect of the Cancer for College scholarship application is an essay about “how cancer impacted your family.” I love reading stories about how family, friends, and entire communities come together to support one person’s battle, thus making it their battle, too. To know that you are not alone is just as powerful as any chemo treatment.


  1. Distraction

Let’s face it, as hard as they try, hospitals are uncomfortable places. They are not home. Everything is sterile, there are beeping contraptions attached to your body, the bed seems to have more buttons than a spaceship, and strange (but loving) people keep coming in
and out at all hours. You get the picture. It is easy to feel out of place, confined, and unsure what to do. Unlike the previous tip, this one is all about activity. Bring a little normalcy back to your friend’s life by engaging with them in their hobbies. My mom read
The Hatchet and Star Wars books with me, friends sat on the bed and played video games, and we built


The “Bald Buddies.” Three friends who willingly shaved their heads, played video games, and had a pie fight were great at distracting me when I needed them. (Photocred: Craig Friesen)

Zoids (giant, mechanical, fighting animal, robots. Very therapeutic, actually). We even
corralled some nurses into Nerf and water fights in the halls. This is what hospital volunteers do, and are amazing at it. I will never forget a volunteer, named Tosh, whose smile, jester hat, and willingness to just play brightened my day every time I saw him. Tosh became my friend because he made those hospital rooms feel more like home, and who better to help accomplish that than loved ones who essentially are your home.



  1. Honesty

This is the hardest one. The element no one likes, but still needs. Yet like a pinch of salt added to a meal, just a little honesty about the reality of cancer enhances and deepens the
flavor of your relationship. Cancer sucks. It is harsh, scary, and no one is prepared to face it when it hits. When you go through cancer, you are often changed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. To every cancer patient, there is no reason to be ashamed or

Girl and dad

There will be challenges and hard talks, but stepping in to share that burden is so important. (photocred:

try to hide what is happening to you. True friends and family will never judge you, but will support you as best as possible. Let them. Cancer is a burden that is best carried by the strength of many shoulders, united FOR you and AGAINST it. There is a great poem that

someone shared with my family during our bout with cancer, and has since been shared with many of our friends in similar circumstances, which depicts what cancer cannot do (you can read it in its entirety here). The point, though, is that so often we let cancer control us by fear and the stigmatization that we need to be cautious and guarded around those battling the disease. I think that gives far too much power to cancer. The moments when I felt most loved and cared for during my battle were when people leveled with me about the reality of my diagnosis, and then made sure that I knew I was not my cancer.


I know this is a break from our regularly positive and happy posts about recipients who have beat cancer and have gone on to accomplish great things in college (like Yomi, Kalina, and Taylor) but we, at Cancer for College, know better than most how important it is to support one another throughout, and after, cancer. In the midst of your battle, we see your potential and want to be there to help you accomplish your dream of a college education. Keep fighting, and be sure to keep in touch with us when you fight off that cancer and are ready to get back doing what you love. We are here for you.

Cancer for College provides hope and inspiration to cancer survivors by granting college scholarships.  Since inception, we have granted over $2 million in scholarships to more than 1000 cancer survivors. To learn more about Cancer for College, and to donate to help a cancer survivor go to college, visit


Pro Pic - CircleAbout the author: Mitch Friesen is a childhood cancer survivor, CFC scholarship recipient (2011-2014), and now works for Cancer for College as their Director of Growth & Community. Mitch graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Business Management and minor in Theology. A lifelong learner and lover of adventure, when Mitch is not catching up with all of the awesome CFC recipients, he can be found enjoying the outdoors with his bombshell of a wife (Abbey), watching/playing soccer, and drinking coffee.

Cancer Disguised as Blessings

We are fully engrossed in reading through and grading applications for next year’s scholarship recipients, and we are so amazed that this is considered part of our job! On this Flashback Friday, we wanted to share with you, our readers, the story of one of our amazing perpetual recipients: Kashannah “Kash” Manawis. Enjoy her great story of overcoming cancer and using it for good!

Celebrating Survivors

“In high school and all throughout my childhood, becoming a doctor was an aspiration I chose purely based on my interest in human physiology and biology. However, towards graduation, the battle against cancer became personal.”

In her own words:

Kash Manawis, college student, cancer survivor

Though it seems cliché, I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was very young. This career choice made the most sense to me, as I have loved human physiology ever since the fifth grade, when I volunteered to stay after school to make a diagram that my teacher would use to introduce my classmates to the respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems (I was very proud).

Additionally, service work and volunteering is a joy of mine, and I have always thought that service to others is important to a well-rounded life, because it teaches selflessness and love. During high school I continued to volunteer regularly…

View original post 1,136 more words

Event Recap: Miss Greek 2016

This year Cancer for College partnered with the University of Washington’s Delta Tau Delta house for their annual Miss Greek fundraiser. One girl from eleven participating sororities was nominated to fundraise, campaign and compete in the annual pageant. This year the competition reached an all-time-high for creative fundraising, where Vodoo doughnut feeds, wing fests and hot dog truck parties were just some of the unique events featured over this 8-month fundraising campaign.

Each girl truly brought her own passion and love for philanthropy to the campaign. It was incredibly inspiring to see young adults with such busy lives, making time for this great cause.

On May 24th after months of fundraising it was officially time for the Miss Greek pageant. Each girl had the rare opportunity to showcase her talent; philanthropic address and personality walk for over 900 friends, family and donors at the Neptune Theatre.  Not only were the girls being viewed by their peers, friends and family but they were also being scored by an elite judging panel which included Miss Teen Washington USA, Claire Wright, Seattle Sounders player, Dylan Remick and King 5 News anchor Sula Kim.  Once the performances were complete and the girls had given their final philanthropic address, scores were counted and the top five were announced. Making the cut was, (Below, from left to right) Talia Vestal- Gamma Phi Beta, Daisha Campbell- Kappa Alpha Theta, Piper Wysaske Delta Gamma, Anissa Sangster – Pi Beta Phi and Katie Christensen- Alpha Chi Omega.miss greek 1

The top five qualifiers were then asked one last on stage question to determine who would become Miss Greek 2016. After the judges tallied fundraising dollars, talents, personality walk, philanthropic address and now the final Q&A answer, the winner was in. Katie Christensen of Alpha Chi Omega was the new Miss Greek 2016 raising over $20,000 for Cancer for College.

miss greek 2

Miss Greek 2016 – Katie Christenson               Alpha Chi Omega

In total the girls raised over $70,000 for Cancer for College setting a new standard for philanthropic excellence at the University of Washington.


Miss Greek has been a recognized philanthropic symbol throughout the 30 years it has been ran by Delta Tau Delta. This philanthropy is much more than just another event on campus, but is one that unites the University of Washington Greek community to fight for a good cause. With the combined efforts we have been recognized as one of the most successful philanthropic events on the West of the Mississippi, with over $1.7 million raised through it’s history. We are excited to keep the tradition going with it’s ongoing success and happy to support Cancer for College along the way.- Hayden Kasmark, Delta Tau Delta – Miss Greek Chair.

M - Abigail Houck.jpg

About the author: having battled childhood Leukemia, Abigail Houck is an advocate for pediatric cancer patients and survivors. Though the odds may have been stacked against her, she always knew she would live to share her story and aid those who followed in her path. As the Northwest Director of Cancer for College, Abigail is determined to make her gift of life count by providing college scholarships to cancer patients who experienced the very same hardships she once did.