With a new year, we welcome our new goals, plans, and expectations. We imagine the year ahead and all that it holds, while taking time to reflect on years past. For students tackling second semester’s mid-terms, this is a great time to reflect on how the school year began. I still remember the differing feelings at the start of second semester versus first semester of freshman year. The uncertainty was replaced with excitement as I prepared to reunite with friends and dive into another semester of academic work. For Christa Rodriguez, a Philadelphia native and freshman at Franklin and Marshall College, her first semester was defined by her newfound independence and group of supportive friends.
Christa was first diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphona in June 2013, the summer before her senior year of high school. After chemotherapy treatments, Christa was in remission by September, but relapsed in March of her senior year. With this more serious relapse came extensive treatment and a bone marrow transplant, followed by radiation and a six month period of isolation which forced her to defer her acceptance to college. These difficult changes were amplified by the fact that she was sick, but Christa reflects on this time with incredible thoughtfulness and maturity. Her simple and timely advice resonated with me:
“There will be a point where you will move on with your life; there won’t always be this struggle…that’s what helped me through.”
From the day Christa received her cancer diagnosis, she had endless support from her friends and family. She remembers the uncertainty she felt at the beginning of her first semester of college at the prospect of making new friends: “First, I was going to go into college and not tell anyone [about my cancer experience], but then it just kind of came out…it was so recent, and it’s part of my experience as a person.” Rather than ignoring this part of her life, Christa embraces her cancer experience as part of her life’s narrative, which has given her a bold and renewed perspective on life. Christa explains that she finds it therapeutic to reflect on the positive personal transformation that her experience gave her, rather than dwelling on the period of time in which her life was “on pause,” as she describes it. While many might struggle to find the positivity in such an experience, Christa has used it as motivation to approach everyday with appreciation and enthusiasm.
A few weeks into her second semester of college, Christa is balancing her academic interests in the humanities and English courses with her involvement in campus life. She is a member of Colleges against Cancer, one of the nation’s leading cancer advocacy groups, and serves as the Chair of the Survivorship Committee. She has also started a Relay for Life team at Franklin and Marshall, in preparation for the April 1st event. Christa serves as an excellent representative of the young adult cancer community through her advocacy and her daily appreciation for life and enriching relationships that define it. As many of us prepare for spring break, let us return to school embracing Christa’s refreshing and positive attitude: “every day that I go to class I think, wow, I’m in college; this is awesome.”
We will reconnect with Christa at the end of the semester to hear about her first year experiences. In the meantime, check out her Relay for Life page to show your support.