Christine G., one of our very first grant recipients in 2005, shows the resilience and determination we find so inspiring in our SAMFund alumni. A second year medical student following her dream to be a doctor, we’re thrilled to share her story as a guest blogger.
At 24, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer in my ovary. My cancer was unusual: it almost always appeared in the gastrointestinal tract, not the ovary, and was typically slow-growing as opposed to mine, which was found to be an aggressive subtype. Frustratingly, I was told there were “no demographics” and “no treatment” – my tumor had been removed surgically, but were it to recur, there was no established chemotherapy or radiation because there were simply not enough patients who had ever had this cancer. After other tests to confirm that the cancer had not started, and might still be lurking, somewhere else in my body, I found myself in a sort of limbo. I faced multiple CT scans and ultrasounds to monitor for any recurrence, first quarterly, then biannually, then annually. With each scan came fear, uncertainty, and an occasional recurrence scare.
After an ovarian cyst had persisted for many months about six years after diagnosis, I had surgery for what turned out to be a benign cyst. Having faced my fears of infertility and death once again and emerged stronger, I was finally, slowly, starting to believe that I could invest in myself and my future. In 2005, as I was applying to master’s programs in medical librarianship, I discovered The SAMFund. After waiting for many doctors’ appointments where I was conspicuously the youngest person in the room, it was a relief to discover an organization dedicated to people like me. I was astonished to hear other young adult cancer survivors echoing my experience. Cancer threw my life into a tailspin at an already fragile place in my life. That moment of upheaval is why The SAMFund exists.
I found solace even in submitting the application and describing my experience for the first time to people who got it. I will never forget my 33rd birthday in February 2006 when Sam herself called to tell me I would be receiving a tuition grant. I thought, “This sort of thing doesn’t happen to me!” as I pictured balloons and confetti falling from the ceiling. I am so grateful that The SAMFund showed confidence in my future when I was just starting to trust in it myself.
My life today looks very different than it did at that time. I am now a second year medical student at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine pursuing my dream to become a doctor. The grant from The SAMFund and my graduate degree gave me the confidence to invest in myself even further when I realized medicine, not medical librarianship, was my calling. This path has not always been easy, but I have been fortified by my past challenges and the people who have believed in me. For better or worse, my life has been changed by cancer, and I am grateful that The SAMFund was there at a crucial point to help tip the balance toward better.