Survivor Spotlight: Ryan Freydig

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Did Robert Frost, who penned these famous words exactly 100 years ago, know that he had just immortalized humanity’s heart? This is not indicative of one of the thousands of ordinary choices we make every day, but an extraordinary one made mostly by a gut-feeling and bated breath. Speaking with Cancer for College recipient, Ryan Freydig, this week forced me to remember how much bravery is required to take your life into your own hands and take the road less traveled. And just like Robert Frost, Ryan is able to look back on all the decisions that he made in the past 4 years and know that he chose well.

Back in 2008, Ryan had just received the news that he was finally in full remission after his battle with testicular cancer. Ready to leave that sickness behind him and charge, full steam ahead, into college and normal life, he quickly applied and was accepted in CSU Long Beach. But, as so many families have discovered, the cost of college is often just too much to fathom. Then something amazing happened

Ryan loved baseball, but when he was struck by cancer there was no way he was healthy enough to compete. So, it was momentous when he stepped back onto the field to play in his first game since beating cancer. The LA Times caught wind of Ryan’s story, came out to this game, and printed an article about his great comeback from cancer and the effects of chemo. Cancer for College heard about this and called Ryan to let him know about our scholarships for cancer survivors; it was the first time Ryan had heard about such a thing
and he hastily applied. After that, all he could do was wait.

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Ryan and his wife, Whitney.

And then it happened. Ryan got a call not only letting him know that he got a scholarship from Cancer for College, but that he would receive one of our coveted perpetual scholarships! College was possible again! Off he went to make all of his dreams of a college education come true. Nothing could stop him now. Nothing except an unexpected fork in the road. The kind of fork that Frost depicts in his poem: a fork that redefines dreams and helps you discover what you want, and who you are.

 

Ryan was in the midst of a great college experience, studying business and doing well, when he was given the opportunity to begin a career. He leaped at the chance to earn money and experience in the “real world” instead of sit in classes that would teach him how to earn money in the “real world.” So, Ryan left college and embarked on an entirely new adventure: working for AAA of Southern California, putting his business savvy to good use generating executive reports and ensuring that all claims are handled smoothly and efficiently.

 

Around the same time, Ryan met the woman who would later become his wife. Whitney was like a jolt of electricity, a breath of fresh air, and a drink of cold water that awoke Ryan to the possibility of life far north of normal. He was working full-time and had met someone who he felt like he could share an incredible life with. When you meet that person who turns your life upside down, and you realize life is better that way, it feels impossible to live any other way. Ryan not only came back from cancer, he was living life fully, in such a way that made up for time lost when he could not focus on anything besides fighting cancer.

Needless to say, Ryan took the road less traveled, said “sayonara” to college at CSULB, and started life with Whitney.  He and Whitney also have a son, Ryan Jr., and the three of them literally live out the life Robert Frost espoused as avid outdoor adventurers. They constantly go on hikes and camping trips around their Southern California home, and try

to visit as many state and national parks as possible. He also has dreams of someday returning to school to attain a degree in information systems, but feels there is no hurry as he is living a good life already.

 

Ryan, we cannot wait to hear what happens next. For everyone staring at a fork in the road, wondering whether or not you should trust your gut and venture out into the unknown, this story is for you. Great things await those who are brave enough to say “yes” to what they know is right, instead of simply following in the footsteps of those around you.   

To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of cancer survivors like Ryan, please visit cancerforcollege.org


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.

Take A Leap!

This week, a friend sent me the story of a woman who defied all odds to live, and it all started when she fell 50 feet, was hit by a car, and diagnosed with cancer. Truly inspiring!

You might already be wondering how such a violent and tragic story could be so inspiring, and before you post that comment telling me to get my brain checked you need to know that I am inspired not by the beginning of Megan Sullivan’s story but by the end, and how much perseverance it took for her to retain her adventurous spirit in the midst of cancer.
Megan's story

When you receive a cancer diagnosis, it feels like a suckerpunch: physically you cannot seem to catch your breath or maintain your focus; mentally and emotionally it feels like all of your dreams, goals, and future are indefinitely put on hold; and spiritually you may feel abandoned. In that moment, and many to follow, any semblance of the adventurous spirit you had before is sidelined to give you strength to endure the cancer treatment. However, like Megan experienced, cancer does not need to crush all of your hopes and dreams, but can be the fuel to start them sooner rather than later.

Is this even possible? Not only is this possible, it has been done before by some of our very own Cancer for College recipients! Our focus is, and always will be, providing hope and inspiration to cancer survivors, and when we get to provide a college scholarship to a deserving survivor we believe that we are helping to alleviate some of the burden shouldered by them and their loved ones. But that is only part of the story, because oftentimes the community of like-minded, forward-thinking cancer-haters that accompanies the scholarship helps provide the “oomph!” necessary to launch a passion.

 

12322901_962987567129331_7143590737415758127_oTake it from Kalina Campion, whose victorious bout with cancer is so recent that her hair is still recovering. She, and her sister Kiana, make up the band Rocky’s Revival, which has played at multiple Cancer for College events in the past year AND opened for Andrew McMahon at 2 different House of Blues venues around the country. Even better, Rocky’s Revival recently released a successful EP, Newspaper Dream (available on iTunes and Spotify), and Kalina is currently competing to be the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year!

 

Still not convinced?

hpusda344837x004_r900x493Okay, then let me tell you a little bit about Taylor Kaczmarek. Back in 2012, Taylor was playing college baseball and had just been drafted by the Kansas City Royals when he was diagnosed with ALL and had to put his entire life — baseball and all — on hold. Throughout his cancer treatment, he maintained his intense passion for baseball and worked out while he was in the hospital. And when his return to college baseball was threatened by a lack of credits, Cancer for College stepped in and made it possible to kick (or throw) start his pitching again. Now, Taylor is in the midst of his final season at USD, about to graduate, establishing himself as a mentor for another baseball player who is battling cancer, and looking forward to what comes next.

Now, it is your turn. Are you ready to put your passions on the backburner, or will you turn up the heat and make today the day that you choose to retain your adventurous spirit no matter what type of cancer stands in your way?

Choose the latter; you are in good company.

To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of cancer survivors like Kalina and Taylor, please visit cancerforcollege.org


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: Max Mueller

Author, Wendell Berry, believes life’s ultimate anchor point is not time, as many people believe, but, rather, place. The right place has the power to invoke an immediate sense of belonging, whereas time requires…well, time to do the same. Why does this matter, dear reader? For Max Mueller, a Cancer for College perpetual recipient from 2008-2010, it is exactly what turned his life into a story worthy of a Hollywood movie.

Max grew up surrounded by France. He did not live in France, nor was he French, but his parents’ Francophilia seeped into his bones and created in him a love for the French, known the world over for its exquisite taste and unique culture. So, when Max got the chance to participate in an exchange program back in 2006, he leapt at the chance and embarked on a journey that would impact his life forever.

 

IMG_6076Just 8 months into his stay, Max felt like he had to go to the doctor to check out a lump he had found. With his ever-present homestay mom there for support, Max was given the terrible news that he had testicular cancer. The doctors thought it would be fairly easy to treat, as far as cancer goes, and once Max flew back to the US they removed the infected testicle and they thought that would be it. However, a short while later Max was back in the hospital and finding out that the cancer had returned and had grown so much that it was pushing on his gall bladder and causing great discomfort. This time, chemo had to be used to rid Max’s body of the tumor. They were successful, and Max began a second, long journey: this one taking him not to another country, but back to full health.

For the first time since finding out he had cancer and being forced to quit his time in France early, Max could breathe and think about what just transpired in his life. One moment he is studying and traveling throughout France, engrossed in a culture and language that felt like second-nature, and the next he is lying in a hospital bed receiving treatment for testicular cancer. In the blink of an eye, Max became a member of a club that no one wants to join: he was now a cancer survivor. Everyone who has survived cancer knows that even after beating the disease, there is still a chance that the cancer will return, and so you have to receive regular checkups for 5 years until the doctors are certain there is a negligible chance of recurrence.

What was Max to do? College was just around the corner but cancer derailed any plans he may have had of finishing his studies in France. With more positivity than most could muster when their plans go awry, the Santa Cruz native chose to stay close to home and his hospital to attend UC Santa Cruz. It was at this time that the other price of cancer came in, and Max reached out to Cancer for College in order to help mitigate the high cost of college. Not only was Max granted a scholarship, but he and his application stood out so much that he became one of the Cancer for College perpetual scholarship winners, receiving our highest award every year until graduation.

France made another appearance in Max’s life in college, when Max decided to earn a degree in linguistics, and chose French as his language of focus. Little did he know that this “language of love” would soon sway the focus of his heart, as well. As most college graduates nowadays learn, you must go with the flow in order to make your way in the world. After graduating from UCSC in 2010, Max moved to LA and worked his way up in the restaurant industry, soon becoming manager of a renowned ice cream shop in Santa Monica.

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It was during this time that Max’s attention was drawn to pastries, or more specifically, to the woman named Charlotte making the sweet delicacies. Beautiful, talented, and raised in (you guessed it) France, Charlotte was a French-trained pastry chef with a knack for adventure. The two began to date, but were soon drawn apart when Charlotte went back to France. It was not until she returned that the two rekindled their relationship, fell in love, and were married just 6 months later.

“It is hard to believe that love stories that feel straight out of a movie actually exist, but it really did happen to me,” Max said, speaking about his fateful his reunion and marriage to Charlotte.

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That was three years ago, and Max and Charlotte are still living out their dreams together. Both are working for the same restaurant group in Santa Monica, and are continuing to move up in the industry. Max has just accepted another promotion that will take him back to the Huckleberry Café, where he began working and met Charlotte. Even though they remain very busy at work, they have found time to return to France. Not only do they visit some of Charlotte’s family who are still living in France, but they also remain connected with the family who took Max in back in 2006, who were with him when he first learned he had cancer. Max even attended the wedding of the family’s son, and has watched their two daughters grow up as if they were his own sisters.

Max can connect nearly every major event in his life to France in some way, and he is more than content with the outcome of his life today. “Place” truly is an anchor that holds us steady during difficult times and helps mold in the midst of great pressure. Now, Max has happened upon a new place upon which to ground a new chapter of his life. Santa Monica is already special because it is where Max met Charlotte and discovered his passion for the restaurant industry. Next week, that place will become home to another monumental occasion: not only will Max celebrate his birthday on April 6, but just a few days later he will celebrate surviving cancer for 10 years! The past decade was full of tumult and inspiration, more than most of us could imagine, and Max came through it like a champion. Moving forward, he can confidently face whatever comes his way, knowing that he will thrive no matter what happens, or where life places him.

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To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of cancer survivors like Max, please visit cancerforcollege.org


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: Jackie Balliot

I was reminded this week that some infections are not bad. Working so closely in the cancer community, and being a cancer survivor myself, it is easy to become laden with the awful reality that so many lives are forever changed by the awful, infectious disease that is cancer. However, this week I was infected by something else: gratitude.

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Jackie posing while she was still on treatment 4 years ago.

I know I say it all the time on here, but it continues to be true that the best part of my job is getting to speak with our recipients. Hearing their stories and experiences makes it easy to believe that it is entirely possible to not only defeat cancer, but thrive after — and perhaps, sometimes, because of — a cancer diagnosis. That is the impression I got after speaking with Jackie Balliot, a sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill whose overwhelming gratitude has positively infected my attitude the entire week! Even as she is about to leap into life on the other side of a hospital stay, Jackie’s positivity and determination to utilize her gifts and experiences to help others is a great reminder of the adage coined by George Matthew Adams, “there is no such thing as a self made man.” We are so happy to have a small hand in Jackie’s story, and are so excited that she will be joining us on May 13 for our Casino Night in the Carolinas fundraiser.

For now, though, sit a while and read about how Cancer for College scholarship recipient Jackie Balliot is flourishing in college and using her gifts in the medical field to give back to so many people who have been similarly touched by sickness:

How are you enjoying your time at UNC Chapel Hill?

I absolutely love UNC Chapel Hill. It’s four hours from my home, so it close enough to where I can visit often but far enough away to where I’ve learned to be incredibly independent. As far as the school itself, I really love the atmosphere. Everyone is so friendly and I’ve been able to meet amazing people from several different backgrounds. I’ve actually been able to meet numerous other cancer survivors, which almost always makes for an automatic friendship! I’m on a Relay for Life committee that allows me to connect with cancer survivors in the county and tell them about our Relay event, which was a ton of fun last year. I actually got to be the keynote speaker at the Relay gala this year, which was a huge honor!

What has been one of your most memorable experiences of the past year?

Hmmmm. I would say participating in Dance Marathon last year. I’m a part of an organization called Carolina for the Kids foundation, and we raise money all year for the patients and families at UNC Children’s hospital. My committee’s job is to establish the relationships between the families and the foundation and to bring them to our big marathon at the end of the year, where we stand for 24 hours to raise money. The standing part was SO HARD, but the marathon itself was a ton of fun. When the patients from the hospital arrive at the end of the marathon, all of the participants get to see first hand where their money is going, and it makes it so worth it. My favorite part was at the very end, after standing for 24 whole hours, they revealed the total amount of money we had raised that year, and it was over half a million dollars! I’m not a huge crier but I cried my eyes out when they revealed it (which also could have been due to the lack of sleep). It it such a fantastic memory!

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Jackie telling everyone the reason she did the dance marathon.

How is your health?

I have been so lucky to be incredibly healthy all throughout college with consistently clear scans. During my treatment I had a limb-salvage surgery, so I have a metal knee and a rod through my femur and was worried about all of the walking to classes making it sore. However, it actually ended up strengthening it and now I have less problems with it than ever before!

Do you have any upcoming plans you are excited about?

I am so excited that I was recently accepted to UNC’s nursing school! It’s an extremely competitive program and I’ve been so anxious about it for the past year- but now I can take a sigh of relief and get ready to begin this summer! I’m also excited about hopefully returning to a summer camp that I am a volunteer counselor at this summer called Victory Junction, which is for children with illnesses and disabilities.

What made you choose nursing school?

When I entered college I had the intent of being pre-med, but it didn’t feel right once I started. During some check-ups and volunteering I began to observe the other members of healthcare teams more closely, and I realized that being a nurse practitioner would be a much more perfect fit. It’s sort of like the best of both worlds; I will get to work as a nurse and work very closely caring for patients and families, and once I go to graduate school I will also be able to be involved in diagnosis and prescribing medication. I definitely have the desire to work with children with cancer– I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else!

Another class of scholarship winners will be announced this summer. Do you have any advice to share with them that you wish you were told when you first entered college?  

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t adjust to college right away. I expected to instantly make friends and fall in love with the college experience, but found it extremely hard to adjust to such a new routine far away from home and I was way way out of my comfort zone- I even considered transferring. However, I eventually found my niche, and now I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

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Jackie and her friends kicking off the Relay for Life with the survivors’ lap.

You just heard some of the best advice from someone who is truly thriving. We are so excited for all that is to come for you, Jackie, as you begin another chapter in your journey to becoming a phenomenal work. See you in May at Casino Night, where you are sure to have more great stories to share!

To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of young cancer survivors, and to learn more about how you can join Jackie at Casino Night, please visit cancerforcollege.org or email Logan@cancerforcollege.org.


About 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.

Safe Spring Break with Sunscreen

Everyone wishes they could work at the beach but do you really want to lug all of your books, files, and laptop out there? All you really want to do is be free from all of those burdens! Right around this time every year, millions of college students wrest their intense focus away from their studies just long enough to rejuvenate themselves for the final part of the year; we call this “Spring Break.”

It is often difficult for students to understand the value of letting go of their studies for even a short time. Collegians nowadays practically live in the library and sustain themselves on a steady diet of pressure, knowledge, and coffee so that they can realize their dream of working 60 hours a week in an office for the rest of their lives. It is up to us, their friends and family, to encourage them to experience the world beyond the confines of their campus during Spring Break this year. We owe it to them to ensure that all they carry with them to the beach in Mexico, Florida, California, or Hawaii is a fresh bottle of Will Ferrell’s Super Mega Sexy Hot Tan Sunscreen.

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Bring Will Ferrell on Spring Break and you will have a legendary time!

Caring for college students is as easy as providing them with the tools they need to survive in any situation, at any time. During Spring Break, this looks like:

  • taking away the textbooks they earnestly desire to pack in their suitcase
  • building up their confidence to make new friends outside of their study group. and
  • making sure that all of their time in the sun does not lead to skin cancer.

All of this is easily accomplished with a couple bottle of Will Ferrell’s own Sunscreen. It fills up space, is a great conversation starter, looks good with any swimsuit pattern and colors, and MOST IMPORTANTLY0 keeps your skin from looking like an overcooked Cheez-it!

It is more important than ever to get college students outside this Spring Break. The future of America — and the world as we know it — depends on these graduates to be refreshed, tan, and cancer free as they take us and our country to impossibly awesome heights!

Get the Spring Break Sunscreen Special: 2 bottles of Will Ferrell’s Super Mega Sexy Hot Tan Sunscreen for only $20! Order yours at http://www.cancerforcollege.org/store.html

Even Our Sunscreen
Promo ends April 8, so get your orders in quick!

To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of young cancer survivors, please visit cancerforcollege.org.

 

Survivor Spotlight: Yomi Alimi

Picture this: you are in the hospital, waiting to learn the results of a slew of tests and what sort of treatment schedule you will have to endure. Fear and anxiety creep in as your mind begins to wander and as you try to calm yourself in walks a young doctor. How can someone so young know enough to deliver this news?

All your worries quickly ebb away as he begins to speak with intelligence and assurance about your diagnosis and how you will be able to get through it gracefully. You just met Oriyomi Alimi – or Yomi, as he likes to be called – and the secret to his preparation is twofold: not only is he attending Yale Medical School, considered by many to be the best medical school in the country, but he is, himself, a cancer survivor and knows what it is like to be on the receiving end of a difficult diagnosis.

Many Cancer for College recipients are so impacted by the care they receive when they are being treated for cancer that they decide to go into the medical field (or it solidifies a decision they already considered). Yomi is so close to realizing his dream of becoming a doctor that he replaced all of his clothes with scrubs out of sheer excitement! Okay, I might have made that up, but Yomi is already practicing some medicine and involved in phenomenal research, so my statement may not be so much of a stretch.

Oriyomi Alimi 2015.1XEnough introduction! I got to ask Yomi a few questions about how his studies at Yale are going thus far. Take a gander below, especially anyone who wonders what it is like to prepare to enter the medical field.

 

 

 

How you are enjoying your time at Yale?

The body of knowledge that must be mastered to become a good doctor is enormous. Yale School of Medicine recently changed the curriculum from 2 years pre-clinical to 18 months pre-clinical. Despite the hiccups that come with transitioning to a new more condensed curriculum, I’ve enjoyed every content block. My favorite so far was the Attacks and Defenses course that covered immunology and infectious diseases. What makes school even more enjoyable are the wonderful and brilliant classmates with whom I get to share the experience.

 

What was the most memorable part about last semester?

The first week of medical school at Yale I was able to spend time on the floor of a medical ICU. For some people, ICUs can be horribly depressing places- people are sick and some of them won’t make it home. What I saw in that ICU team of doctors and other allied health professions was amazing. Their knowledgeable and compassionate care along with the will to uphold patient’s dignity in the face of severe illness continues to remind me why I came back to school to become a doctor. The best parts of last semester were the opportunities I got to spend time with patients in the wards.

Do you already have a track you would like to specialize in as a doctor?

To answer your question – I have no idea what I want to specialize in yet. Let me expand upon the first question you asked by adding another one of the best parts about medical school at Yale is the opportunity to discover. Discover new things about myself, discover new things about how the world and the human body works, and to explore the myriad of specialties within the tent of medicine. I’ve taken a left brain approach to condensing the options by keeping a running checklist of pros and cons of different specialties. I am also keeping myself open to falling in love with a particular area of practice. Hematology/Oncology, Anesthesiology, Diagnostic Radiology/Interventional Radiology, Pathology, Cardiology, and Gastroenterology are top considerations in my differential.

How is your health?

February 14th was my 5 year anniversary since my diagnosis in 2011. As of my last follow up this past Monday there is no evidence of recurrence! Every day continues to be a blessing and I thank my family and friends for their support.

What are some upcoming plans/events (e.g. internship, trips, study abroad, research, jobs, etc.)?

I just passed my pharmacy law exam for Connecticut last week! I started working at Yale New Haven Hospital in December as a clinical pharmacist on a per diem bases under a temporary license. This summer I will continue to work as a fully licensed clinical pharmacist per diem while working on research with a terrific faculty mentor in the nephrology department. To supplement my nephrology research experience I will be traveling to Erlangen, Germany for the TRENAL summer school. TRENAL is a collaborative network between Yale, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), University College of London, and the Max-Plank Institute for Physics and Light to promote translation kidney research.

OAlimi

What great news, Yomi! Not only are you taking full advantage of the academic challenges that Yale offers,but you are doing so cancer free! You are well on your way to a magnificent life filled with great purpose.

We are so thankful that there are people like Cancer for College recipient, Yomi Alimi, who make up the bright future of medicine.To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of young cancer survivors, please visit cancerforcollege.org.

Remembering Taylor Helland

Have you ever been through an impossible week? The kind of week where it seems like time itself has slowed just so that every moment feels elongated, almost painfully so. This was that kind of week because, for the second time in as many days, a mom just let us know that her child finished her fight with stage III colon cancer on February 20, 2016. Taylor Helland was nothing short of a bright light for the two years that we knew her as a recipient. But there is a silver lining to weeks that take forever: we have so much more time to focus on the eternal impact Taylor made on everyone she came in contact with.

In her own words:

“Cancer has come with lots of pain and stress, but even more so it has come with so many blessings and has made such a positive stamp on my life and personality. Facing this terrible disease has only encouraged me to fight it and help others fight it.”

It is not often that the most positive person in the room is the person in the midst of a 5-year battle with cancer, but with Taylor it was undeniable that she was overflowing with enough life for everyone to be filled up. “Choose joy” was her battle cry and her most infectious quality as her countless friends and family can attest. Wherever Taylor went, there was life because she chose to treat every day as an opportunity to give back and ensure that those around her left with more hope about their future; be they fellow cancer patients who needed cheering up, or Ed Sheeran himself. See for yourself in the slideshow below.

As I look back at the first time Cancer for College met Taylor, it was through her application, and the personal statement she wrote, which depicted the accomplishments and selflessness of someone twice her age. Just marvel at her attitude, remembering that she was in the middle of treatment as she wrote this:

“I met several young people on my journey who were also battling cancer. Some are still fighting, some have gone to heaven. I cannot put into words how much I want to help others fight. I want to raise awareness, raise money, and help others beat this terrible disease. My youth pastor was just diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and I am very hopeful that my story and experience might help him through his difficult journey…My ultimate goal in life is to make sure another 14 year old girl in the future does not have to go through what I have been through. That is why I am doing everything in my ability to promote cancer research and fight on!”

To be honest, Taylor lived more fully than most of us ever will by choosing to dedicate her life to helping others when it would be so understandable if she focused her energy on herself. From speaking to promote cancer awareness and research, leading multiple fundraisers that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for research, and getting fired up when she had the opportunity to make her surgeon’s dream of starting a pediatric colon cancer trial come true there was nothing Taylor would not do make sure other people the opportunity for the future she dreamed of.

Now is the time for mourning because Taylor’s time with us was cut far too short. Now is also the time for celebrating because we are blessed to have been touched by a vibrant soul, and are so much better for it. In 20 years, Taylor weaved a story reminiscent of the most loving and caring saints in history. And she graciously invited us along for the journey.

If you are one of the many people who was impacted positively by Taylor Helland, please feel free to share a memory with us. You will always be a part of our family, Taylor, and we are so thankful for the gift of getting to know you these past few years.

Taylor Helland