My name is Hunter Markham, I am 22 years old and just graduated from the University of North Florida as a double major in Business Management and Transportation & Logistics. When I first started at UNF in the fall of 2017, I was experiencing severe headaches which my pediatric neurologist had previously diagnosed as cerebritis. I toughed it out for a long time and didn’t think much of the consistent pain in my forehead but one night in June of 2018 I had headaches so excruciating that I became nauseous and had to go to the ER at UF Health Jacksonville. After doing multiple MRI’s and CT scans, the doctors worked on getting my pain under control and the next day I was able to meet my new neurologist as I had just turned 18. However, her first impression wasn’t too flattering, she came in to inform me that I had a brain tumor in my right frontal lobe and that my pediatric neurologist had been misdiagnosing it the whole time. She also told me that because of the tumor’s location that they were scared to operate on me and instead suggested doing a biopsy and choosing a treatment based off the results.
Hello Nicki Leach Foundation, my name is Bethany and I received a scholarship from you to help me get through nursing school. I have an inoperable brain tumor (one in a million) and I have had very few answers about my future but I have decided to live every moment like it’s my last. Since your gift, I have graduated nursing school cum laude despite a lifetime dose of radiation to my brain and have gone on to work as a registered nurse in the PICU at the children’s hospital at Stanford. I have helped get young kids home for holidays, held children while their parents were away, and held patients as they took their last breaths. I have given my best to the profession that helped me to get me where I am and that has been made possible by you and the Nicki Leach Foundation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your gift and for believing in me. You have, in turn, touched many, many lives and there will be many more to come. My best wishes to you during this holiday season ❤️
Peter Bilzerian’s Story
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I’m sure that is true for almost all healthy children. But for those of us who have faced death at six years old there is no time to waste. My cancer formed above my kidney and grew quickly; it gave no quarter for my young age. While others were learning to read, or ride a bike, I underwent rigorous cycles of chemotherapy treatment and waves of radiation. That year I was perhaps too young to understand death but I did understand loneliness and pain. Unlike my tall, strong brother, I am short and fragile. But I am alive…
Tera Newton’s Story
Some may say that my life changed for the worse on the day I got in to a car accident in October 2011. I choose to look back and believe it changed for the better. After hitting the windshield of the car I was driving I was taken to the hospital to get stitches and complete a CT scan to determine if I had injury to the brain. That CT scan turned in to an MRI which turned in to a trip to another hospital where they kept me for 3 days. The staff later informed me that I had an unidentified mass on my brain that would need a follow up with a neurosurgeon…
In March 2009, my life changed forever. But I suppose that everyone who has ever received the diagnosis of cancer has a particular date etched in their minds and would say the same thing. But I was only 13. My family, friends and others, never thought we would see the next birthday, much less see me walk down the aisle and graduate. But on May 31, I will walk down that aisle to give the student speech and obtain my high school diploma. The past four years haven’t been easy, but I have been blessed…
Bethany Elliot’s Story
My name is Beth, I am 19 years old, and I have always had the goal to become a pediatric oncology nurse so I can help kids and their families through the toughest time of their lives. I have always been drawn to the medical profession but I became highly involved in learning the profession’s ways about 4 years ago which was my sophomore year of high school… I began having some abnormal hormonal issues and I went to my general practitioner who ran a few small blood tests but when the results came back as mostly normal she told me that “eighty percent of brain tumors are prolactin producing and since your prolactin is normal you probably don’t have a tumor.”
Jordan Lewis’ Story
My name is Jordan Lewis and I am a 21-year-old senior International Business student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This past summer, after returning from a month long humanitarian aid trip to an uncharted village in Tanzania where I was building a birthing clinic, I was diagnosed with a stage four sinus cancer.
I was experiencing what the doctors thought was severe sinusitis, total congestion of my sinuses and frequent nose bleeds. Finally, after antibiotics and steroids proved unsuccessful in mitigating my symptoms, a CT was ordered.
Kevin Yndestad’s Story
My name is Kevin Yndestad and I am 20 years old. The word “cancer” has impacted my life for many years as my cousin, also 20, was diagnosed at age five, and is a three time survivor. We are very close, and we celebrated together every time he reached a cancer-free milestone.
I have always been one to reach out and volunteer, so when I was a freshman in college, I took the opportunity to spend my spring break teaching kids with cancer how to ski and snowboard with the Shining Stars Foundation in Aspen, Colorado.
Nolan Weber’s Story
No doubt about it, I have had a blessed young life. 17 years old now and Jesus has been with me every step of the way. As I sit in my room, I am reminded of numerous fun times. My walls are decorated with memories of family and friends. My trophy shelves don’t have a vacant spot on them, probably over 100 trophies and medals representing countless hours of hard work on the soccer field, baseball diamond and basketball court. Twice awarded “Top Male Athlete” in my grade at school. All that while always being the shortest and smallest player on my teams. My dad coached me on the majority of those teams. We always looked beyond my size, always saying “develop the work rate, intelligence and skill – and the best is yet to come.”
Being diagnosed with HIV at the age of 16, my entire life was shaken to the ground. I fell like a house of cards and nothing made sense anymore. I couldn’t focus in school, my home wasn’t a home at all but a hellish void in which I had no choice but to reside in until I could find some way out. To frost the cake, all of this was happening just after my lover and best friend committed suicide by hanging himself in our bathroom. I have never been the same.
It sounds like fiction as I write, but my memory holds true. I never dreamt I would encounter any struggle comparable to what I went through during that time.
Somer Greene’s Story
Hi, my name is Somer Greene. I am eighteen years old and senior in high school, and I would like to tell you about my personal discovery.
It all started on March 1st 2011. Our favorite restaurant was empty that night. Tables lay vacant except for empty plates. A waiter hummed quietly to himself, and small candles illuminated the room. My family and I had just discovered in that quiet little restaurant that my pathology came back positive, meaning that I had Hereditary Gastric Cancer.
My name is Kaitlin and I am twenty three years old. I am a graduate student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado studying to be a social worker.
My story begins in May of last year when I began experiencing abdominal pain. From May until October I saw a variety of doctors and specialist, but I received no explanation of my symptoms beside being told that it was it was probably nothing and could be related to being a stressed out college student.