eing a student is hard. Being a student with cancer is harder.
Liana Price, a graduate of Florida State and speaker at Saturday’s Relay For Life event held at USF’s Track and Field Stadium, felt the pressure of being just that.
Between 12 rounds of chemotherapy, she had to remain a part-time student to stay on her parents’ healthcare plan.
“School was still a priority for me despite treatment that often made me feel very weak and very tired,” she said. “I had no social life and felt very isolated from society as any opportunistic infection could bring me down at any moment.
“But I made it through.”
Her diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma came after months of going to student health services and specialists with complaints of sinus issues and shortness of breath that got dismissed as asthma, allergies or a sinus infection.
When she went again in May with exhaustion, nausea and a swollen neck, the doctor passed it off as mono.
As she continued to get worse, the doctor tested for TB and HIV, which came back negative. The doctor questioned whether it was allergies, whether she wanted to be in school and even whether it was a mental health issue before doing a chest X-ray to check for pneumonia.
“The chest X-ray saved my life. It showed that I had a mass in the middle of my chest, and that there appeared to be a significant amount of fluid surrounding my heart,” Price said. “I was immediately whisked away to the ER, but I had no clue what was going on. I felt as though nobody was telling me how serious everything was.
“I had a whole lot of fluid around my heart that needed to be drained … I was awake, but in twilight sedation during the whole procedure, watching them pull out giant needles full of yellow-green fluid from around my heart.”
The speech echoed a theme seen throughout the event: everyone knows somebody affected by cancer.
Though Price felt isolated, she was one of millions affected by the disease.
Over 120 teams spent 15 hours walking, participating in activities such as Zumba and fundraising through selling food or engaging others.
Along with food, teams used video games, face paint and henna tattoos, and jewelry to raise money.
Some used more unique means to raise funds.
Scott De Silva used a marshmallow launcher he built with his roommate Zac Primus for an engineering expo to raise money. The system used a face detection program to launch marshmallows for the person to catch in their mouth.
The Beta Chi Theta fraternity used a mock jailhouse to raise money by charging $2 for them to arrest somebody and $5 to get out.
Andro Gad, the brother who came up with using the jailhouse, said it engages the people put into the jailhouse to get those outside to help.
Gad said he and the rest of the fraternity came out to support one of their brothers who’d been diagnosed with cancer and used some of the programs offered by the American Cancer Society such as the Hope Buses while seeking treatment.
“I’m from Egypt, and where I’m from, cancer is a death sentence,” he said. “To come to America and see people fight is amazing.”
By 6 a.m. Sunday morning, over $61,000 had been raised with $11,000 coming from Saturday’s, according to event lead Jana Mahon. The board can continue to fundraise until August, according to Gina D’Onofrio, activities coordinator.
“You need to be your own advocate,” Price said. “If something doesn’t feel right, please stand up for yourself. If you don’t feel right, please get it checked out. Many adults ages 18-24 forgo yearly check-ups or going to the doctor because they don’t have the time or the money. I understand that.
“Who wants to spend money on a co-pay when it could be spent on a round of drinks for your friends or the cost of a textbook that is necessary for class? If you don’t get that check-up, there may be no rounds of drinks.”