At the start of my junior year in high school, I faced an obstacle that changed my life forever. I was diagnosed with Stage IV CIC-DUX4, “Ewing’s Like” Sarcoma. I had a 12cm tumor in my calf and nodules in my lungs. My world came down on me. I considered dropping out of school, all the plans I had to compete as an Alpine athlete were put on hold.
My cancer is extremely rare and aggressive. Initially, I had 14 rounds of chemo, 31 doses of radiation to my calf, 10 doses to my lungs and a rod placed the length of my left tibia due to radiation damage. I relapsed 7 months after completing 7 months of treatment and had major surgery to remove the soleus muscle in my calf, a lung resection, 6 more rounds of chemo, fertility preservation and egg retrieval followed by a stem cell transplant on March 11th, 2019. The month I went through transplant was the absolute worst of my life. I was allowed back home three weeks before high school graduation and graduated on May 31st, 2019, with treatment finished and my recovery process beginning once again.
During my fight with cancer, I learned a lesson that I can use through any challenge. I learned to embrace a different role, something I never saw coming – being a leader from the sidelines. Being diagnosed with cancer put life in a whole different perspective. I had to make myself happy without doing the thing I loved most: ski racing. Luckily, I found something that kept me involved with my friends and committed to my team, coaching. I showed up as often as I could, no matter the circumstances – even if it was the day after a chemo treatment. Most days I dragged myself up the hill and just sat there so I could be with my team. It takes a different type of courage and commitment to still go out and support your friends while not being able to participate yourself. So many days you are forced to stay in bed at home or in the hospital, but I knew my place was on the hill with everyone who cared for me.
My comeback has been bumpy, to say the least. I knew it was going to be hard. I relapsed again in November of 2019, but I am determined to achieve my goal of attending college in the fall of 2020. As for the community at large, I want to continue contributing to the childhood cancer community online, through youth advocacy groups and at Children’s Hospital Colorado. I intend to use my college education in the medical field, either through research or interacting with patients directly in nursing or as a doctor. Facing cancer has been a challenge I wouldn’t wish on anyone but I would tell others that conquering cancer both mentally and physically has taught me leadership and perspective, skills I am taking to college with me that are not on my transcript. Instead of limiting me, cancer has motivated me to take on the future, no holding back.