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College after cancer

By Abby Houck
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Abby Houck is a 2009 Cancer for College Scholarship Recipient
  • Houck battled acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a child
  • Medical bills for Houck left the family with few resources for a college education

Editor's note: Abby Houck is a 2011 Cancer for College scholarship recipient who received $3,000 toward her senior year. She was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2001 and graduated in 2012 from the University of Washington with a degree in communications. Houck now works for Cancer for College as director of special projects.

(Special to CNN) -- The nonprofit Cancer for College not only provided me with a college scholarship, but it also showed me that goals can be accomplished regardless of adversity.

Going to a good college was always high on my agenda. I was in the third grade when I received my first all A's report card. Little did I know receiving grades like this was about to get a whole lot harder, in fact nearly impossible.

That summer I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. For the next two years my brain would be pummeled with doses of chemotherapy, which would forever change my memory and cognitive ability. Completing my education was one of the hardest and most tumultuous experiences of my life. Between missing two of the most crucial years of school as well as having my brain fried with chemo, just remembering my locker number became a challenge. Yet even though my ability to learn had changed, I always believed that if I worked hard enough I would overcome these setbacks and reach my goal of a college education.

In winter 2009 I was officially accepted to the University of Washington. This was not only a monumental moment for me, but for my parents as well, for every time I had a setback in the classroom they had to watch me struggle through it.

My acceptance letter could have been bittersweet. Having a child with cancer not only took a toll on my family mentally, but also financially. Over the course of my life my parents had been saving money for me to attend college, yet because of the unexpected costs of treatment, much of that money was used to simply keep me alive. That is where Cancer for College made a difference for my entire family: No longer did my parents have to be stressed about how they were going to afford my tuition, they instead could focus on my happiness in moving forward to a new adventure.

Providing college scholarships to cancer survivors is not just about helping a child who has battled a deadly disease; it's also about giving an opportunity to someone who, each time they were faced with hardship, had the courage and determination to prevail.

Cancer for College understands the multiple obstacles cancer survivors face, and promotes the fundamental need to give survivors the education they deserve in order to make an impact in this world. Having Cancer for College believe in my college dreams made a vast impact on my life and on the lives of countless other cancer survivors.

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