Posted: February 15, 2017
When you’re a childhood cancer survivor, life takes on a new meaning, and you want to do everything you can to help others who are affected by cancer. That was the case for Samantha Sowa, who was diagnosed with papillary thyroid carcinoma on July 27, 2010 when she was 11 years old.
This most common type of thyroid cancer is usually seen in adults over age 45, so the doctors were completely shocked – to say the least. Despite the rare diagnosis, a little over a year later, on September 8, 2011, Samantha had her last radiation treatment and considered herself cancer-free. Although she’s had a couple of scares since then, the cancer has not returned, and that makes her extremely grateful.
About a year after being declared cancer-free, Samantha received a letter from Lurie Children’s Hospital about CureSearch for Children’s Cancer. It was in this letter that she learned about the downtown Chicago Walk*. She and her mother decided to see what it was all about. It was during this first Walk that she had an unforgettable experience.
“I will never forget the first walk that I went to. After the survivor ceremony, there was a ceremony to honor those children who lost their fight to cancer. Two young ladies were playing the ukulele and singing the song ‘Safe and Sound’ by Taylor Swift, while all the families of those who lost their fight let go of balloons that soared up into the sky. I remember having tears streaming down my face, thinking about the children and what they had to go through. I definitely counted my blessing then and there, and from that moment on, I knew I wanted to make a difference for childhood cancer research, but at the time, I still didn’t know what to do.”
It was at that same walk that Samantha heard there was a need for future volunteers. She and her mother thought it would be a great idea to get involved. So they did.
“For the last two years, my mom and I have been volunteering at the Walks held at the Schaumburg Boomers Stadium, and we absolutely love it! We get to help and get to know many inspirational children and families, and it feels great to help out the organization that has helped me.”
That same desire to make a difference also inspired Samantha to write about childhood cancer research funding for her senior AP Research project. She knew that the majority of people do not realize how underfunded childhood cancer research is, and most do not even realize the burden of childhood cancer on both the child and the family. This project would bring light to this issue, as well as raise awareness for childhood cancer. It would also honor those who are fighting through the battle, and remember those who lost their fight.
“As a survivor, I feel that it is my moral obligation to help those who may not be as fortunate as me. That is why I decided to pursue this research project, in order to see what actually influences a donor’s willingness to donate to childhood cancer research organizations and foundations.”
Samantha believes that regardless of the amount you donate to an organization, every little bit makes a difference. She knows firsthand that unlike other, larger organizations that only give a small percentage of your donation to research, CureSearch donates the majority of your donation to actual childhood cancer research funding. And that’s what truly matters.
Today, Samantha is 17 years old and will be attending North Central College in the fall to study actuarial science. She loves to learn new things, and in her free time, she enjoys decorating cakes, playing golf, singing, dancing, and of course, volunteering. She says, “My cancer diagnosis and fight has made me into the strong person I am today,” and we know that she means it.
Learn more about volunteering for CureSearch.
*CureSearch Walks are now officially called CureSearch Superheroes Unite!