Pressing forward: Cancer Society awards scholarships to survivors

Feb 9 2011 - 7:55pm

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MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner
Michelle Carlin, of West Haven, is attending Westminster College with the help of a scholarship from the American Cancer Society. Carlin is a cancer survivor.
MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner
Michelle Carlin, of West Haven, is attending Westminster College with the help of a scholarship from the American Cancer Society. Carlin is a cancer survivor.

SALT LAKE CITY -- The American Cancer Society has established a scholarship program to give young cancer survivors the opportunity to pursue their education.

The $10,000 scholarship will help pay for enrollment, tuition, fees and books at any accredited university, community college or vocational technical school, said Patricia Monsoor, regional communications manager for the ACS.

Recipients are selected based on successfully meeting program eligibility requirements, continuous academic achievement and a level of commitment as an ACS volunteer.

Last year three Top of Utah youths were awarded the scholarship: Alex Brown of Farmington, Elizabeth Quigley of Kaysville and Michelle Carlin of West Haven.

Carlin, 20, is pursuing a degree in elementary education at Westminster College. She said the scholarship helps to offset her tuition and has alleviated the stress of having to take out a student loan to pay for school.

"I am taking 15 credits at school, am president of the tennis club at Westminster and teach kindergarten on Sunday mornings at Hill Air Force Base at the Catholic Church," Carlin said.

Carlin is also a survivor of acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was a sophomore at Fremont High School.

"I remember my AP biology teacher saying that every single one of us would either know someone who has cancer or will have cancer and I thought, 'What if it is me?'" Carlin said. "I went on for a couple of weeks, playing soccer, going to the Valentine dance and hanging out with friends. But something was changing."

Carlin said she had little to no energy and would often have to call her mom to pick her up from school by mid-morning. She was having trouble keeping her breath during games and was very pale. After a trip to the doctor she was sent to Primary Children's Hospital where she was diagnosed with cancer.

After nearly a two-year battle, Carlin walked with her graduating class. She is now healthy and able to do anything she desires.

"One thing I would want people to know about cancer is that if you have a friend that has cancer, then be their friend," she said. "I felt like my cancer caused me to lose a lot of my friends and as a girl in high school, I needed my friends."

Carlin said she is grateful for the scholarship money she was awarded.

"The scholarship is for $10,000, so I get $2,500 each year for four years," she said.

Quigley, 19, of Kaysville, also was awarded the scholarship and is attending Utah State University. In 2004, just four years after losing her mother to complications from cancer, Quigley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"I had been really tired, moody, not hungry, sweating at night and getting a lot of bruises, but there were explanations for all of those," she said. "I was not getting very much sleep because I would get up to practice the piano before I went to school, then go to school, then go ride my horse and take care of her all afternoon and then stay up late to do my homework. "

After diagnosis, Quigley began treatment. A bad reaction to chemotherapy landed her in a wheelchair for two years and crutches for another two years, but today she is healthy and in July, if all goes well, she will be considered cancer-free.

Quigley said the scholarship money has given her wonderful opportunities.

"The scholarship has given me the opportunity to have some experiences that I missed out on while going through chemotherapy treatment," she said. "I only have to work during the summer, so I can focus on school during the rest of the year and I can go and do things with my friends, something that I never got to do while I was going through chemotherapy. I'm so thankful to the American Cancer Society and the donors that made my scholarship possible. It has helped a ton."

Applications are now being accepted through April. You must have been diagnosed with cancer before the age of 21 to be eligible and must be 25 or younger to apply.

To apply, visit www.cancer.org/inyourarea/greatwest/programsandservices/childhood-cancer-survivor-college-scholarship-program.

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