CHSCF Scholarship Winners

Annika Ohman – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2019

Brian Hall Memorial Award Winner

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The Power of Music

Cancer changed my life. My world flipped upside down at the age of fourteen as I was thrust into a daily reality of pokes, chemo, hair loss and hospital life. Everything in my life had changed and my single focus was to survive. Physically, I faced what any cancer patient faces; low counts, pain, nausea, and exhaustion. Being in the survival mindset for years took a toll on my mind as well. As I processed the grief and scars of my journey, I dealt with issues of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. The mental struggle my cancer journey dealt me was harder than the physical in many ways. My treatment lasted over two and one half years, and this summer will be my final post treatment check up!

During my treatment, music became an important outlet for me. Playing piano allowed me to express the difficult emotions I was dealing with. It was a distraction and escape from the daily rigors of treatment. When I had lengthy hospital stays, the child life staff would bring a keyboard into my room for me to play. Piano was one of the few areas in my life that stayed somewhat normal. However, my cancer soon affected even that part of my life. Three different times throughout my treatment, I had temporary paralysis in my left arm caused by errors in procedures and a stroke-like reaction to one of the chemotherapy drugs. For me, being unable to play piano was worse than losing my hair.

Since treatment, music remains an important part of my life. When I reflect on the important a role music played in my emotional and mental healing, I desire to give to others that gift. During my gap year, my abiding love of music became increasing apparent. I also discovered a passion for teaching. During that year, I ran a private studio of over 25 students, continued my own piano study, and auditioned for colleges. I am currently studying piano performance and piano pedagogy at Wheaton Conservatory of Music. I have thrived in my time at Wheaton thus far, winning the piano concerto competition this past fall and pursuing teaching opportunities in the community.

My future career goals include pursuing graduate studies in piano to enable my to teach and perform at a higher level. For me, reaching my summit means instilling a love of music in the next generation and bringing joy to others through my playing. Music has such a potential to transform, bring hope, comfort and heal and I am honored to make it my life’s work. I am eager for what my future holds!

Julie LeBlanc – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2019

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No one ever thinks it’s going to be them hearing the words “you have cancer” but when it is you, you must re-evaluate your life and question where you’ll go from there. At such a young age I did not think I would have to quit my career and put my life on pause. Unfortunately, that is the reality for some people. While undergoing chemotherapy I received a drug that disabled me from continuing the route my life was currently on and ultimately put a stop to my professional dancing career. Lucky for me, my diagnosis jolted me in a completely new direction. I was faced with an entirely new base and there was nowhere to go but up. When I was in the hospital, I found it difficult to find anyone that was available to make a visit to my room to cut or shave my hair. I know I couldn’t have been the only one to encounter this problem. I felt this shouldn’t be a problem in the first place. So, I decided to be the one to change that. Now that I have figured out my new summit, I am excited and ready to conquer it. Finally, after a year of enduring chemotherapy and a long year of recovering from my bone marrow transplant, I am finally able to start taking steps in pursue of this new journey of mine.

I took my first steps in conquering this summit by enrolling in Paul Mitchell Cosmetology School. Reflecting on my experience, I would have loved to have even the tiniest bit of help to lighten the tremendous load I was already facing. I want to help make the experiences that are usually thought of as bad or inconvenient that cancer patients must go through and turn it into something much more positive and enjoyable. I would love to help whether it’s shaving their heads, styling their perfect wig, boosting their confidence with makeup, or making them feel relaxed with a spa day. I would be overjoyed to be that person they could rely on to ease some of their worries at such a trying time. I am ready to work hard and put in time in order to reach my summit because I aim to make a difference. It is so important to me to take my experiences and do something that is going to make a positive impact in other’s lives. By accomplishing this summit it will result in many new and exciting summits and I can’t wait to see where they’ll take me!

Shelby Janeway – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2019

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My first day of summer following my sophomore year of high school, I woke up early to drive to the University of Michigan. Typically, a trip to Ann Arbor would be filled with adventure for me, but that day wasn’t an adventure I wanted to experience. A month prior I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in situ, and my surgery was scheduled for the day after I finished my first year of high school.

When I was told about my diagnosis, I knew it was curable and I could manage it, but it didn’t feel that way. It had felt like my whole world was crashing down when I had just turned sixteen. I had lost interest in my hobbies, felt down all the time, and struggled to focus in school. Shortly after my surgery things started to get better, even though I had a few scares every now and then. I knew after this my life would never be the same. I don’t stay our in the sun for long, my mom is always reminding me to reapply sunscreen (as much as all mom’s would), and I’m constantly checking my skin for new moles or any changes. It’s been a little over a year since my diagnosis, and my life has definitely changed for the better.

While my experience brought me some hardships, it has also opened my eyes up to how I want to live my life. It sounds cheesy, but it really has allowed me to view my life differently. I learned that life is short and you shouldn’t be scared of everything. I have also learned to accept what I have to live with, and step put of my comfort zone. Right after I was diagnosed, I joined my school’s student council and was always hesitant at first to get involved. I have made so many new friends and grown as a leader in such a small amount of time. I also joined a relay for life team through my council; which became a big part of my life last year. While I was there, I met so many people of all ages who shared stories of their own and for their loved ones. It felt so amazing and empowering to have been surrounded by so many people like myself who were touched by something so terrible but turned it into something manageable.

Throughout my journey, my family has been my number one support system. They stayed by my side and always held me up when I couldn’t do it myself. With their help, I regained myself, and began focusing on school more and my future. I became interested in studying radiation therapy at Grand Valley State University, and already sent my application for next fall. My parents are very involved in my life and I’m so happy that they didn’t stop pushing me to do my best, even when it seemed impossible. My older brother has also been such an amazing role model through all of this because he helped me believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, no matter hard life gets. I can never repay them for all their help in making me who I am today but I can keep pushing through my struggles and make them proud with my bravery and accomplishments.

In summary, I have been able to turn my life around from a life changing diagnosis at the age of sixteen, to an amazing bright future at seventeen. My experience didn’t just change who I am as a person today, it defines the point in my life when I opened my eyes and discovered who I am and what I’m meant to do.

Alex Veljanovski – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2018

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One week after my second birthday party my life would forever be changed. This was when I was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a retina cancer, in my home country of Macedonia. I was lucky to be diagnosed, as there was only one working MRI in the entirety of the capital, Skopje, at the time. The waiting line for this was months and months but since my father had a friend whose neighbor was a doctor that reads MRIs, we got to skip the line. After this diagnosis my father called his relatives in the U.S. that were doctors and they highly advised them to do nothing Europe and come straight to the U.S. My father took the advice and we went to the U.S. The most difficult part was my family and me coming here and not knowing a single word of English. My great uncle and aunt gave us a home for a while and also found my dad a job. Then both my father’s cousins guided and talked us through the entire process. After coming to the U.S., Dr. Taub was the doctor who would treat me with the chemotherapy. Then after Dr. Roarty checked me out several times and, after 12 doses of chemotherapy and radiation, suggested to completely remove my right eye before it spread. Then Dr. Roarty proceeded to do the operation and remove my right eye along with the cancer. That was the end of all the pain and I could finally begin the next chapter of my life. This whole experience would end up showing me how grateful I am and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I want to give back everything I can to everyone who helped me through the whole process and helped me survive. Starting from my two amazing parents who did everything they could to ensure my survival, to my great uncle and aunt who flew us out here and guided us through everything, to all my relatives who helped us and helped us pay the medical bills, to Dr. Roarty and Dr. Taub who I owe everything to for saving me, and everyone in Children’s Hospital and the doctors in Macedonia who helped me. They’re the reason why I’m here today and writing this in the first place. I want to take everything I’ve learned and use it to pursue what I want to do in life.

Right now, how I pursue to help others is through National Honor Society at my school. I do volunteer work all around my community to help them. Some of the few different volunteer work I’ve done is tutoring, cleaning houses, cleaning parks, making water gardens, etc. I’ve even won some awards for this works, the main one being the Member of the Month, which is only a one-time winning award. But after I’m done with high school and not in the National Honor Society, I want to go into medical in college. I want to go into medical school and help others like how I was helped. Even though I don’t know what I want to be exactly, I will figure that on the way. I want to attend my dream university that I’ve wanted to go to ever since I was young, which is the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and get my degrees there. Then hopefully go on to be one of the best doctors and who knows maybe end up working for a sports team in Detroit.

I really can’t imagine how my life would’ve been without the cancer because I was diagnosed so young. But that whole experience made me the person I am today and it’s the main reason I want to go into the field I’m planning to go into. But there are many steps left on my journey, the next one being accepted to U of M Ann Arbor. Although my 4.3 cumulative GPA and 1300 score on the SAT make me a strong candidate to get accepted and get some scholarship money, it sadly won’t be enough for my family to afford. This is because U of M Ann Arbor is one of the top colleges in not just the United States but the entire world. My mom and dad both came from Macedonia with no English or education so it wasn’t much of a surprise they always pushed me to do well in school as they knew they couldn’t attend college. But since I’ve done so well in school I’ve helped them out a lot but it’s not enough to go and pursue my dream.

Christopher McDaid – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2018

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In July 2017, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the center of my brain. It wasn’t a surprise because I had been having terrible symptoms such as frequent urination and double vision for the months prior to July. When I went to the emergency room for double vision and a splitting headache, it was dismissed by the ER doctors as I was “too young” to have cancer. Days after we went for a second opinion because my symptoms were getting worse by the day. This is when I received the diagnosis of a pineal gland germinoma tumor. After four months of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation, I went into remission.

Through my experience with cancer I have learned a lot about different medications and how they are used in procedures and treatment plans. I plan to become an anesthesiologist so that I can help others that are struggling with issues of their own. In a way, my experience was a form of schooling. I was able to remember so much about how different medical jobs are done because it affected me personally. Every time I went into the hospital, the only part I would look forward to is being knocked out because I was so nervous. I want to make the same difference in someone else’s life that the anesthesiologists made in mine. I am also very interested in the medical field because I remember all the little details well and understand how things work through my experiences more than most people would. I know the schooling for this field is extensive, but it pays off in the end in being able to help people.

One of the most important parts about being in the field of anesthesia is the relationship that you build with your patients. All my life I have been very careful with medications and made sure to never take too much. This will help me because I am aware of the advantages and disadvantages of many medications, which will help me to administer proper dosages. As an anesthesiologist, you must be aware of your patient’s tolerances. All the knowledge I have acquired over the past year sets me up for this job perfectly. I would have never thought about this career otherwise. I guess the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” is true. I have made the best of my awful experience and hope I can help others in the future by making the same difference that my doctors made for me.

Darby Walker – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2017

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Darby’s Story

My life has been forever altered by my cancer diagnosis, it put an entirely new mountain to be scaled in front of me. My new base was one I was not well equipped for, and it portrayed itself as one of the hardest endeavors I could ever possibly experience. For me, my base was adjusting to my new life with cancer. I had to put a halt to my former life, goals, and dreams to commit all my energy towards my battle with cancer. This is how my new base came along, and the beginning of my climb to my new summit. Once I began to adjust my life I knew that I had to establish for myself a new vision to reach, a summit to continue climbing towards. So that’s exactly what I did, and my new summit was colored green and white with the strongest mascot I can imagine. My newest summit was to be accepted to the college of my dreams, Michigan State University, and go into their nursing program. This became my newest summit for a variety of reasons, including their phenomenal nursing program, their breath-taking campus and the fact that the Michigan State University Pediatric Oncology program saved my life. Since I received all of my treatments at Sparrow Hospital that works in partnership with the MSU pediatric oncology program, they helped me realize that I have so much to offer in my life with the talents, wisdom, and gratitude I have gained. That I can turn my cancer diagnosis into something honorable; to help those whose shoes I was once in. Furthermore, I propose to go into Michigan State University and become a Nurse Practioner, who specializes in pediatric oncology. I want to help others, so that no child is left feeling alone or scared. In my life I want to make a purposeful change, and that is a summit I will never stop trying to achieve.

Shayne Lindquist – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2017

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This past year, I was having an amazing experience at Central Michigan University in my sophomore year. I was enjoying my classes, getting involved in ROTC and began playing division 2 club hockey. This could be considered my old base, but I began to find a new base halfway through my hockey season with I started to notice my vision was a little odd; I was noticing that when I looked a certain way it became distorted or double. But being the stubborn person I waited until after my hockey season and until I got back from an Army competition out of state to get them checked. In February, I got an MRI and found the tumor, then a couple days later I was at U of M being diagnosed with brain cancer. In March I received a brain biopsy and since then, I have begun my first two chemo rounds and will follow that with radiation. This is my current base.

My summit is a very optimistic one, as it had been before I was diagnosed. However, it includes a new outlook on life and has given me a new feeling of strength and willpower. This feeling started immediately after I was diagnosed when I told myself: “of course this would happen to me, it makes sense this way.” This isn’t a pessimistic view on the situation, but rather optimistic because I believe that if I want to reach all the challenging goals I set for myself in life, I need to be able to overcome any and every obstacle I face. What better challenge to face than one of this magnitude, to prove to myself that I am as strong and capable as I believe? My goals for life start with graduating from college with degrees in International Relations and Law of Economics, then receiving my commission as an officer into the Army. I’m striving to become an infantry platoon leader and I hope to stay in the military long enough for a retirement, but I don’t plan to spend the whole time on active duty. I would return to the reserves, which is what I am currently in, and obtain a job in federal law enforcement. Furthermore, I plan to apply for some internships occurring next summer in the federal law enforcement field, including the FBI, DEA, or Secret Service.

I have a long and difficult summit ahead of me, but I know I can reach the top following this minor bump in the road. This experience so far, has given me a new and more powerful outlook on life. I have found a new sense of self-strength and optimism in myself, which I will use to reach for the top of my summit.

Mallory Walker – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2016

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My Testimony Towards Reaching My Summit:

I was always focused on my improvements in my life. That has always been my base. The effect of being diagnosed with cancer made my new base more motivational towards reaching my summit. Upon my diagnoses I was currently in school reaching my most important goal, which was making it into the Mortuary Science Program.

During my treatment I didn’t let anything stop me. Even though I had to take a medical leave from school, I still attended my interview for Mortuary school. This was a big eye-opener for me to push forward and be determined. Losing my father to lung cancer in 2013 was my first test, then not five months later I found out that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My base was being affected tremendously, but I didn’t realize I was being set up to reach my summit.

This was something new to me that was totally unexpected and I honestly was nervous about my outcome. After awhile I gained more motivation through the support from family and friends to keep pushing forward through good spirit. I went through a process of losing my hair and being unable to perform certain functions of daily operation. I didn’t let this effect me because I let my spirit to overlook the negative and insert the positive for my future benefit. Upon my closing months towards the end things got harder. I didn’t want to attend chemotherapy nor did I want to accompany myself around others. My judgment day finally came and everything was finally over I then received my results in the moth of October. My successful results caused me to leave the Cancer Institute in tears of joy and I knew I had a new base to cover in order to reach my summit.

My next step of operation was removing my port out of my chest and I kept it for significance of reminder of my journey. Before I finished treatment, I enrolled back in the school. In the month of June I had a second interview where I was accepted into Mortuary school on the spot. Things begin to look up in my favor. Currently, I am attending the Wayne State University Mortuary Science Program. School has become a part of my every day process and I’m focused on becoming a successful Funeral Director. I plan to be, in the next five years, done with school and working in my career field. This process has been a journey and I have fought a good fight with determination of not giving up. Going through my health challenge has been a struggle that I overcame and I didn’t let it get the best of me. Even though cancer is a hard thing to get through it really helped me formulate a stronger plan towards reaching my summit. My testimony is strong and I will one day be able to tell someone my life was tested on the faith of God to see how determined I would be towards reaching my summit. When you want to achieve a goal it’s best to never let anything get in your way nor surround yourself with a negative perspective. I believed in myself and I came through like a champ. The best is yet to come!

Caitlin Sall – CHSCF Scholarship Winner 2016

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To hear a doctor tell you that you have cancer is one of the most heart-dropping phrases a person can hear. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that phrase three times in the last three and a half years. I never fully understood the limitations that would come with cancer-physically and mentally. After the cancer was gone and I was able to return to normal life, I had to basically start all over. My “base” was and 83lb, bald 17 year-old who had spent more days in the hospital than in school for the past four years. I’m now a year into my climb and my future has never looked so bright. Each day I have little wins. Whether it is I can do more pushups than yesterday, I pushed past chemo brain and remembered something, or even that I could put my hair in a mini ponytail, I know that I’m one step closer to reaching my summit. While I was in treatment my summit was to fight cancer and win. Once I reached that summit, I knew that for my next one the possibilities were endless. If I could defy all the odds of cancer, I can do it in anything else too. Every time I reach one summit, I always find a new one. My summit is to graduate high school in four years, despite being in the hospital for most of it. Next, it’ll be to graduate from college and then to graduate from grad school. I will always have parts of my base with me-the memories, struggles, and the scars but it’s my base that motivates me. Each day I strive to achieve more and more because nothing, especially not cancer, is going to stop me. My ultimate summit, and most ambitious one, is to find the cure to cancer. I know what it’s like to hear the words that are terrifying and unfathomable. I hope to find a cure, so that no one else will ever have to hear that they have cancer again. Each day is one climb further from base and one closer to the summit.

Thank you,