Cancer survivors relay unique message


from Peter Hong

Students play a horseshoe-like game in the gym during last year’s Relay for Life April 16. As a fundraiser, groups brought their own games and charged for tickets to play.

Sophie Bates and Emily Williams

Juniors Evelyn Jiang and Samira Vuchula have both faced the dreaded C word: cancer.
Jiang was only 14 when she was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma.
“When my parents first got the news, they almost fainted. They didn’t know how to deal with it,” Jiang said, recounting how she was in and out of the hospital.
“I would go into the hospital for a week and get a lumbar puncture and fluid from my brain to make sure the cancer didn’t spread,” Jiang said.
She hid her cancer and treatments from her friends.
“I didn’t want them to see me as the girl with cancer,” Jiang said. “They were all busy with school and stuff, while I was busy with my treatment.”
Vuchula was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 3.
“It boggles my mind because at such a young age I understood the severity of the situation,” Vuchula said.
After undergoing chemotherapy, both are now in remission and raising awareness for cancer as a part of Relay For Life. Jiang is the Survivorship Committee chairman and Vuchula is co-chairman. They cooperate to produce the kick-off event April 29, which includes finding survivors to speak and keeping the dinner upbeat, Vuchula said. The committee hopes to have at least 10 teams participate and raise more than they did last year, which was over $8,000.
“The American Cancer Society is a non-profit, so all of the money directly goes to finding cures for cancer. Our goal is to get $10,000,” Vuchula said. “I think that’s an easily achievable goal.”
Junior and Relay for Life chairwoman Kelly Pentz praises Jiang’s ambition in the club.
“Her passion and her drive make other people more involved and she’s a really good part of our committee,” Pentz said.
Both Jiang and Vuchula are planning to pursue medical careers.
“I’m just trying to be a well rounded student so that I can be a doctor and save other kids,” Vuchula said, noting that she was inspired by her oncologist.
Advanced Placement Psychology teacher Kendra Swam noticed Vuchula’s ability to be a “questioner” when the class discussed the show “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“Very often she would ask whether something was accurate from the episode or inaccurate as far as our psych knowledge,” Swam said.
Despite the hardships they have gone through, the two have bounced back from cancer stronger.
“I appreciate life a lot more and the people around me,” Jiang said.
Vuchula agrees.
“It’s given me a lot of strength, perseverance and determination that defines who I am,” she said. “You know when you’re going on a roller coaster and there’s that first really big hill where you’re like oh my god, oh my god, but then once you get down it, the whole ride is so much fun and you’re not afraid anymore? That’s how I feel about my life so far.”