How do you get up after a knockdown, drag out fight with something that is determined to keep you down? How do you begin to feel like moving forward when it seems like you are not even you anymore? These are questions that cancer survivors ask themselves as we look to regain our footing outside the sterile confines of a hospital. One of the best ways to answer these questions is with education. Learning engages our minds and helps us focus on discovering what excites and invigorates us. However, cancer also takes us away from society and friends, making college the perfect place to return to learning and social life.
A new school year is right around the corner, and with it comes an incredible opportunity for our scholarship recipients to launch into learning how to thrive after cancer. No one espouses this positive attitude more than Zephaniah Luck, one of our two-time Carolinas scholars and an amazing artist! He shared some really exciting news with us that we had to share with you. It is so much better in his own words, though. Take a gander at his update and try not to be too upset you were not able to join him on his celebratory, post-treatment trip.
In January 2013 I was diagnosed with T-cell ALL (Acute Lymphoblasic Leukemia). I underwe
nt 3 ½ years of rather intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I am happy to announce that
my last official chemotherapy was this past May. I continue to go to the hospital on a monthly basis for check-ups and antibiotic treatments for the next year and then follow-up check-ups will continue periodically for the next ten years. My diagnosis is very good. Historically patients with T-cell ALL have an 80% success rate with no re-occurrence.
To celebrate the end of my treatment, I was able to study abroad this past summer in Rome, Italy. As an art student at UNC-Greensboro, I had the opportunity to earn 6 credit hours (3 in drawing and 3 in art history). I had an amazing month long trip that allowed me once in a lifetime experiences. I got personal tours of the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Vatican and many other lesser known sites throughout Rome. During the month in Italy, we also visited Milan, Naples, and Pompeii. While the entire trip was amazing, getting to explore the ruins of Pompeii was my favorite part of the trip. The artwork that I saw was wonderful. Among the highlights were original pieces by Caravaggio, Michelangelo, the architectural wonders, and a Cristo original exhibit called “Walking on Water”. Aside from the amazing sites, I also enjoyed experiencing the food, people, and culture of another country.
Now that I am back to school at UNCG, I am looking forward to spending time with my friends and continuing my education. This semester, I will be applying for my BFA in drawing and printmaking. I have found that I am able to express my “cancer experience” through my art. I am including a picture of a computer graphics piece that I made this year. I looked up the molecular structure of each of the types of chemotherapy that I took during my treatment and created a picture from it. I am currently planning a piece that is inspired by Vincristine, the primary chemotherapy that I took monthly throughout the treatment. Vincristine is made from periwinkle flowers which will be the main focus of the piece. I am also including a couple of the drawings that I did while I was in Rome this summer.
Aside from my studies and art, I also enjoy cooking, archery, and gaming (video games). One thing that I would like people to know I have learned from my experiences is that it does not matter what curve balls life throws at you. A positive attitude can carry you a long way and you can achieve your goals. The path may not be the road you planned on traveling but you can get there.
That is good enough to read again: “The path may not be the road you planned on traveling but you can get there.” We are so excited for the next steps on your TREATMENT-FREE journey, Zephaniah, and are grateful that we can be a small part of making it possible. Good luck this year, and keep up the good work on your art!
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 Zephaniah today.
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.