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.


1 thought on “Survivor Spotlight: Rachael Gottes

  1. How uplifting! I just keep saying how amazing these survivors are; yeah, Cancer for College for all the possibilities.

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