Students persevere through hardship

Students persevere through hardship

On a typical day, you can hear complaints through the hallways. One student “actually just failed” her government test. Another forgot his phone in the car; some had to brave the treacherous walk from Wakeman.

Yet, not all students have complaints like those. Some face  difficulties on a completely different level than school: sickness and serious hardship that they must endure.

However, a number have taken the tragedy that they are dealt and turned it around.

When Phoebe Spear ’17 was 11 years old, she was first diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, and underwent treatment and surgeries for the next two years at Sloan-Kettering.

Although she might have been young, Spear was inspired to go above and beyond. She explained how during her first time in the hospital, she kept thinking of getting out of the hospital, being done with treatment, and starting to help other kids like her.

“If you have cancer, you have no control over the disease; you are helpless when it comes to if the treatment is successful,” Spear said. “I could no longer stand the feeling of being helpless. That is when I decided to start Phoebe’s Phriends.”

Spear explained how she wanted to start the organization to fund trials for new forms of chemotherapy: one with less treatment.

“If I could do that, I would be the happiest person on the planet.” said Spear

And that is what she is working to do.

“She always thinks about how she can make others happy,” said longtime friend Catherine Delaurentis ’17, “ She wants to help others that have been in the same situation as her.”

Junior Xenia Bradley ’15 and her family also took an experience with illness and seized the opportunity to help others. Bradley’s family started Lea’s Foundation for Leukemia Research to raise money after their aunt passed away from leukemia.

“We started the club because we wanted to help out with the foundation in any way that we could,” Bradley said.

Other students have endured tragedy but turned around the experience by giving back. Junior Cara MacDonald continued a fundraiser started last year by her friends. The goal was  to give back to the hospital and rehabilitation center where she was treated after being struck by a car. The fundraiser was a way for her and her friends to reverse course, to be thankful for her good recover and to give thanks to those who’d helped her.

“I wanted to actually give back on my part by fundraising,” MacDonald said.

“Cara wanted to continue our fundraising idea because she was able to see firsthand how the donations helped the facilities and tools at the hospital,” Hannah Berggren ’15 said. “If it wasn’t for their remarkable work, Cara may not have had such a quick and amazing recovery.”

Money from both years’ fundraisers went to purchase iPads for teenagers in recovery.

Money does not always need to be the source of turning tragedy around. When Justin Slosberg ’15, was diagnosed with leukemia his freshman year he maintained a positive outlook.

“It’s not tragic,” said Slosberg ’15. “See what I did there? I viewed what most people would view as a disadvantage as an opportunity to strengthen myself and gain a fresh perspective on life. Everything is only what you make it out to be: you can pity the situation and wallow in the obvious facts of why it’s unfortunate, or you can come from a higher place.”

He noted how he was able to stay positive with the help of his friends and peers, who supported him by continuing to treat him normally and not like a victim.

“Adversity can either beat you down or make you a lot stronger,” Slosberg said. “And that’s your decision to make.”