"We could not have given Anders the best possible outcome without their help." –Gini, Anders' mom
Before he was even one year old, Anders was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare, cancerous tumor of the eyes. Anders family had to go to multiple hospitals outside of their hometown in order to get the best treatment for their son.
After battling his disease for 15 months, and just before his second birthday, Anders family faced a critical decision. "Our choice was either remove his eye or fly from Minnesota to New York City for a new treatment," explains Gini, Anders' mom. "It was possibly the answer to our prayers."
The family knew they wanted to do whatever possible to save their son’s vision but previous treatment expenses had depleted the family’s savings and they faced mounting debts. "Our finances were waning, but our resolve to get the best possible treatment for Anders was still fierce," recalls Gini, "but we weren't ready to give up and decided to fly to New York."
Given their financial situation, the family had no idea how they could continue to see a doctor thousands of miles away from their home- until they were connected with The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS).
The NCCS assists Anders and his family with the travel expenses, providing them the opportunity to save his eyes and his life. Gini is thrilled to report the treatment was successful and saved both of his eyes. Gini says of the NCCS, "We could not have given Anders the best possible outcome without their help. For that, we are forever grateful."
Anders is now full of life and attending preschool, seeing what each day has to offer.
"I will do whatever it takes to prove that cancer has not conquered me; it has only strengthened my perseverance in being the person I want to be."
- says Natasha Bear, Scholarship Recipient
Everyone remembers their high school years, and almost everyone finds it to be a unique time in their life, full of life lessons and growth. Nevertheless, I believe my high school years have been somewhat more "interesting" than most. In May of my freshman year, I was diagnosed with a chondroblastic osteosarcoma in my left tibia. The doctors would never actually say the words "cancer", "malignant" or "tumor", but apparently all three applied.
I traded volleyball, my hair, and hanging out with my friends for months in-patient treatments. My sophomore and junior years were filled with chemotherapy and surgeries, making the hospital (several, actually) my second home. Of course, I had a lot of support from family and friends, and in the end I think my ordeal was tougher on my parents than it was on me. After the tumor was removed, there were the usual complications (broken legs, chemo late-effects) to deal with, but now in my senior year, I am back playing volleyball, and things are back to something resembling normal.
These days, the doctors are confident that the cancer is taken care of, although I still have a lot of "pictures" taken every few months to make sure. I feel like I've finally caught up on my schoolwork, and, best of all, I've started playing volleyball again. Other than a nice scar on my leg and a large collection of headscarves, there aren't too many reminders of the "interesting times" I went through, but nevertheless it's not something that one forgets easily.
Has the experience changed my outlook on life? Of course. Having cancer convinced me to reassess my daily life, and caused me to realize that there are many things that seemed so crucial before, but now seem insignificant. I see things from a better perspective now, evaluating whether things should really be important in my life and trying to get the most out of the life I have. I get up every day happy, trying to live my life to the fullest, because I am lucky to be alive, and I appreciate every moment I have. I am not going to tell you I don't watch television or surf the internet like any other teenager, but Iwill admit that my "brainwashing time" has been reduced and replaced with activities like simply hanging out with friends or (my personal favorite) playing sports.
This experience has also helped me realize the enormous effect that people have on a life. My oncologists and surgeons were not only my doctors, but also my friends, both caring for me and supporting me through the ordeal. Their treatment methods made me feel like I was not just another patient, but a friend that they genuinely wanted to help. This treatment has convinced me to pursue a career in the medical field, where I hope to be the best doctor I can be to my patients. While I will avoid the oncology department, I am determined to give the same support and care to my patients that my doctors gave me.
That being said, I know it will not be an easy road to become a doctor. I am fully aware of the long nights studying and many years of high-stress education that await me. However, after having to think of the prospect that I may not be able to do whatever Iwanted in my future, I am determined more than ever not to let anything stop me from having the future that I want. I will do whatever it takes to prove that cancer has not conquered me; it has only strengthened my perseverance in being the person I want to be. In fact, I can hear a voice inside my head when facing a challenge: "You call this tough? One word: CHEMO."