By Kate Rendi –
March 2012 changed my life. Prior to March 6th, I thought I was a typical high school senior. I was a healthy athlete, hard working student, and overall looking forward to starting the best chapter of my life: college. But after hearing three words, “you have cancer,” I saw my hopes and dreams falling out of reach. Could I finish high school on time? Could I attend Michigan State University in the fall? When I first asked these questions in treatment, the doctors had a firm answer; they would do our best, but wanted to get me healthy before they decided. My stubborn, independent self knew that part of getting through this journey was to not let adversity stop me; I was going to be a Spartan.
My treatment started with six months of chemotherapy, where I was faced with challenges from watching my hair fall to the floor to excruciating pain throughout my entire body. But after making it across the stage at my high school graduation, I knew I could reach my goal of doing it again as a Spartan.
As I started to think more and more about the reality of college I became concerned, how could I walk to class if I couldn’t walk more than a few feet across the hospital room? How would my dorm be safe and clean enough that my compromised immune system could handle it? Or how would I communicate with my professors my condition, in case another medical emergency came my way? Even with all these questions and more, I was determined to make it to MSU.
This is when the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities came to my rescue. Without this amazing program, I would not have been able to start my life as a Spartan. From orientation and walking around with my shiny bald head to registering classes close enough to my dorm, RCPD helped with all of it. I still remember the look on my mother’s face after our first meeting with the chronic illness specialist: the relief that she could allow her daughter to return to a “normal” life and attend college with the rest of her peers on time. I remember my emotions as we walked by the Spartan stadium that afternoon, realizing that in a few months I would switch out my hospital room on the 5th floor of Beaumont Hospital for the first floor of Case Hall.
My freshman year was anything but easy. After finishing chemotherapy in August I had to return to Beaumont in October every single day for radiation treatment, still attending all my classes and every Spartan football game. I then returned to Beaumont in December for reconstructive surgery on my leg, not missing a beat when it came to social and academic endeavors at MSU. As a sophomore I transferred care to U-M Hospital, still returning monthly for scans and tests to be sure we had beat cancer, once and for all. It was so comforting to know that every unexpected scan or appointment could be taken care of, never worrying if a professor wouldn’t understand. Now this year as a junior I am thrilled to return to Michigan State as an upperclassman, realizing that my time here is going far too fast.
Even though I am now almost three years post diagnosis, I deal with side effects that have completely changed the way I must live my life. Although I am now in remission, I wear the scars of everything I’ve been through on a daily basis. Without RCPD, I wouldn’t be a kinesiology major with the goal of Physician’s Assistant school to work in an oncology department. Without RCPD, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet life long friends through clubs and sporting events. Without RCPD, I wouldn’t be a Spartan.