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.

Cancer.

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.

Cancer.

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 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.

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

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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

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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

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

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 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.

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.

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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.


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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.

 

ConGRADS & Conquering the First Year After College

Tears. Tiredness. Tassles. And, ultimately, triumph. That is the process so many recent graduates went through over the past few weeks as they prepared to walk across the stage and receive the diploma they worked so hard to attain. Nowadays, earning a bachelor’s degree is essentially a foregone conclusion if one wishes to make a name for him or herself in the workforce, but after the confetti and mortarboard settle, many new grads are left in a daze, wondering where to go next, as they continue to search for a job in a market that is still recovering from the recent recession. Torn between the desire to use their passion and newfound knowledge in their degree field, and simply needing to pay bills and eat, more new grads than ever are embarking on cross-country (and state) treks to work and live in cities far from home.

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A grad announcement we received from one of our recipients, Taylor Kaczmarek, who just graduated from USD with a degree in Business Administration.

To be frank, it has only been one year since I was one of those people. After graduating from Azusa Pacific University with a B.A. in Business Management, I got married to my girlfriend of nearly four years, and continued my voracious search for a job. Many people would decry the order with which we acted, marrying before securing a job, but love is powerful and we wanted to ensure that we moved forward together, no matter where that took us. Plus neither of us had been slacking on the job hunt before graduation: our application tally reaching double digits and each interviewing for two jobs that eventually fell through. All this to say, I am no stranger to the apparent job plight facing today’s graduates.

And let me be the (probably not) first to tell you: there are so many awesome experiences and opportunities out there for you!

Just a few days ago, MSN released a timely list of “The 25 Best Cities for New Grads to Work, Live and Play In,” the most recent of a plethora of similarly themed articles. Each city in the list offers a combination of affordability, job availability, and nightlife meant to entice eager twentysomethings. It appears to be the answer to every grad’s prayers: purpose, money, adventure, and newness! And all that is required is for you to move far from home, everything and everyone you know, and try to establish yourself in a new place.

Wait a second. This is starting to sound tough.

When you add that to the mix, people begin to think this is too daunting a challenge for them to take on and back away from tremendous opportunities! Post-grad life is definitely different than life in college; everything about the college environment is tailored to help you thrive, from the proximity to friends and community, to top-notch experts in every imaginable field at your beck-and-call, just waiting for you to soak up their genius (sort of). Life after graduation, on the other hand, is where those years of preparation in a safe environment begin to be tested as you are handed the reigns, and projects have real-world outcomes.

Here is the best part, though: it will all be okay. YOU will be fine.

(breathe through that a few more times, all you new grads who have said “I don’t know what I am doing” more times in the past semester than you can count)

You now have the freedom to make virtually any choice you want, to go anywhere, and accept any job offer. So, take advantage of the chance to live in one of those 25 cities while you bustle around trying to figure out how to do your first full-time job. There will be time for you to settle down later, and make all of the decisions that accompany that change of pace, but that time is (most likely) not now. Now is the time for you to explore in as many ways as possible.

Sarah McNeil Graduation

Sarah McNeil, one of our great Carolinas scholars, just graduated from Wingate University and is continuing her education in the fall to become a Child Life Specialist.

I know you didn’t ask for it, but here are just a few of my tips for a successful first year of post-grad life, from someone just one year removed from where you are now:

  1. Take some time off to celebrate! Soak in the victory of four or so years of hard-fought academic victories, and let the stress of finals and theses melt away. You earned it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to move for a job. As I said before, there will never be a better time to explore a new city, state, or country.
  3. Call your college friends. You will quickly learn which college friends you want to take the effort to stay in touch with, especially since you are no longer a room or five-minute longboard ride away. And since this is the case, those people deserve more than the occasional text or snap. And if you can meet up with them, that is the absolute best.
  4. Be a sponge at work. After two decades of school, I learned one lesson: there is always more to learn. Post-grad life is where you learn how you can, and enjoy, contributing, but you start out at the bottom of the food chain (I’m talking to you, valedictorian) simply because you lack experience. Trust me. So, ask lots of questions, take notes, and…
  5. Say “yes” to as many opportunities as possible. Don’t overwork yourself all the time, but this tactic shows people you are committed, helps develop new skills, and impresses people you did not even realize are watching.

Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. This is often the best form of learning. You are resilient. My wife and I lasted less than six months in Georgia because she really didn’t like her job and working from home is not my cup of tea. It took a lot for us to move out there, and we technically failed because we were supposed to be there for two years, but we saw it as an opportunity to try something else, explore a new city, and grew a lot because of the experience.  

Congratulations, again, to all of the new grads, especially all of our Cancer for College recipients who have now conquered both cancer and college. You are about to embark on an entirely new adventure that will be both hard and amazing, and you are the one in control. You are destined to make a difference, and we cannot wait to see what you are going to accomplish and how you will influence the world.

 

To find out how you can help more cancer survivors like Taylor and Sarah achieve their goal of graduating from college, 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.

Flashback Friday: “Not Even Cancer Can Stop Me”

What is more difficult to comprehend than the complexity of the human brain, how it interacts with the rest of the body and mind to create a unique person? The scientific community is only just beginning to grasp how billions of neurons work together to keep our bodies, and personalities, alive and well. Throwing cancer into the mix throws the balance of this complex organ into chaos and can transform someone into an entirely new person.
This month is Brain Cancer Awareness Month, and we want to do our part to bring to light some of the effects of this terrible type of cancer, while bringing hope to those who are in the midst of a battle with this disease. It is entirely possible to heal and thrive after such a battle – we know this because 61 of our awesome recipients are brain cancer survivors! One of them, Dalton Bouchles, allowed us to share some of his story on the blog last year, and believe that his story is so encouraging that we wanted to share it again with you today.
Take a look at his story, and remember that through trials and challenges, even brain cancer, there is always hope for you to battle through it all and victoriously stand tall on the other side, ready to accomplish your dreams.
“My dream has always been to attend college,” wrote 19-year-old Maine resident Dalton Bouchles last year in his Cancer for College scholarship application. “However, once I found out I had cancer, that dream became blurry.”
At age 18, Dalton was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a brain tumor which develops near the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor but suffered many physical and cognitive impairments from the procedure.
“At this point in my life, I was unsure as to whether or not I would be able to attend college like I had originally planned,” Dalton continued.
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But Dalton would not be deterred, not even by something as ominous as brain cancer. Following is his story in his own words.
I worked very hard in high school to prepare myself for college. I maintained an A average, participated in many school activities such as Key Club: as a member, president, and Lieutenant Governor for my division. I was a member of Boys’ State, National Honor Society and a Student Representative for the MSAD #52 School Board during my senior year. For sports, I was a member of the golf team and enjoyed two years participating on the soccer team. I am very proud to be a 2012 graduate, ninth in my class at Leavitt Area High School.
In the Fall of 2012, just three weeks before I was due to head out to Worcester Polytechnic Institute for my first year of college, I was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, a craniopharyngioma. How the diagnosis came to be was through a routine eye exam, which showed swelling on my right optic nerve. An MRI the next day confirmed the eye doctor’s suspicions and revealed the tumor which attached itself to my pituitary gland. The surgeon gave me four days to get my things in order and then I was in the hospital having brain surgery to remove the large tumor from the center of my brain and save my life. Those four days between diagnosis and surgery were filled with shock and fear. I knew from this day forward that my next four academic years as well as my future life plans were about to change.

Surgery did not go as planned. Due to the tumor’s size and location it created surgical complications, resulting in a two month hospital stay. Each day held many challenges for me, which included occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. While all of my friends went on to college and started the next chapter in their future, I have spent the last two years of my life in rehabilitation and recovery. Because of the type of tumor, its size and where in the brain it was located, the surgery has left me with substantial physical and neurological impairments. Most significant are my vision loss and cognitive challenges. I still have all my marbles, but I have to work harder to process and organize information. I lost over 80% of my vision and now I am visually impaired and partially sighted, which has left me unable to drive, limiting my mobility.

Due to the tumor and its effects, it has made Worcester Polytechnic Institute no longer a viable option. The cognitive impairments now limit my ability to attend school as a full-time student. I am now working on a degree two classes at a time, allowing me to reach my dream of going to college. Although the tumor has slowed my education, it will not stop it. Along the way, I have remained a very positive person and a hard worker.

I have always felt that education was a top priority in life. It opens up many doors and possible careers that would have not otherwise been available. I want to go to college, receive an education and walk through one of those doors myself. Nothing, not even cancer, is going to stop me. I pushed myself hard in therapy from day one in order to get as close as I can to where I was before surgery and get back on the college track. The tumor was a roadblock that I overcame and now I am where I am supposed to be, heading back to college.

Nothing, not even cancer, is going to stop me.

Dalton is currently attending Central Maine Community College and enrolled macroeconomics and critical thinking. We applaud your fighting spirit and determination, Dalton, and wish you the very best of luck in all that you do!

To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of cancer survivors like Dalton, please visitcancerforcollege.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: Maggie Brilhart

Today is the day Friday the 13th becomes known as a lucky day. I am sure of it. Do you know why? Because today we are preparing to celebrate 6 years of providing scholarships to cancer survivors in North and South Carolina with our 6th Annual Casino Night in the Carolinas fundraiser. Not only do we get to provide scholarships to students all over the United States, but we have people from coast to coast who are just as committed as we are to fighting the effects of cancer and launching dreams. Tonight, we get to come together once again to make more college dreams come true.

One of the people who will be in attendance at Casino Night is well known in the Cancer for College family. Maggie Brilhart is returning to join us as a CFC alumna, winning a Carolinas scholarship twice, and graduate of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy as a Doctor of Pharmacy! Many of you will be able to speak with her in person at the event, but we did not want anyone to miss out on getting to hear about her experiences since graduating. Even though she is busy working, Maggie was kind enough to send us an update on her life. She is such a great writer, and her compelling story speaks so much of her courage and refusal to let cancer drag her down. Check out her story below:

As we make our way into May, I think of so many important events that have occurred since I received my first Cancer for College scholarship in May of 2012. I was a second year pharmacy student who had recently been diagnosed with stage IIIA melanoma. Since then, I have graduated from pharmacy school, moved from South Carolina to Houston, Texas, gained a sister-in-law and brother-in-law, completed a year long pharmacy residency, moved to a new state, and accepted my first “real” job. May is an important month for me because it is melanoma awareness month. While most other people are gearing up to lay out by the pool and bake in the sun, I am buying sunscreen in bulk. Too many people forget that melanoma is the most common cause of cancer-related death in women aged 29 – 34, and that it is often preventable. The month of May should serve as a reminder to protect your skin and have it checked regularly, regardless of complexion, hair color, or age.

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Maggie (right) with her mom and sister

The past year has been full of changes and adjustments. In June of 2015, I progressed to stage IV melanoma and simultaneously finished my pharmacy practice residency at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Due to this progression, I took time off to rest and recover. Unlike the rigorous schedule of residency, I now had the time to tour Napa Valley with my sister, visit friends up and down the east coast, and celebrate weddings with friends and family. In the fall, I felt ready to go back to work, and accepted an outpatient oncology pharmacist position at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina. The transition back into independence and going back to work was easily the best experience I have had in the last year.

Working as an oncology pharmacist has been a goal of mine for several years. I was already in pharmacy school when I was diagnosed, but as soon as I spent time volunteering and working with cancer patients, I was hooked. I find that cancer patients are grateful, hopeful, inspiring, and tough. I sought opportunities in oncology and was very fortunate to match at MD Anderson, surrounded by some of the best oncology teams and researchers in the country. At my current job, I am able to work with doctors, their teams, and patients. We work on chemotherapy planning, patient counseling, and coordination of care, among other things. It is the best way I can think of to help support patients while fulfilling my personal goals through my profession.

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Maggie and two of her co-workers from Wake Forest Baptist Health.

For all of the new scholarship recipients, congratulations! I hope that you are able to enjoy the full experience of college. Having been through cancer, we all have learned, one way or another, that life is a gift. Though I didn’t go into college with that experience, my advice is to keep your priorities straight, but always make time for fun. Pursue interests and hobbies, and search for a major or even a career that makes you feel fulfilled and proud. And lastly, enjoy it, because the real world is tough (but lets be serious – who is tougher than you??)

That is the truth! There is no one tougher than you, and Maggie is a hopeful example for every cancer survivor who is determined to achieve their dreams despite cancer’s attempts to derail them. See you tonight, Maggie!

To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of cancer survivors like Maggie, please visit cancerforcollege.org. You can also make an impact specifically in the lives of students either from or attending school in North or South Carolina by donating to the CFC Carolina Scholarship Fund at crowdrise.com/CAROLINAS.


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.