Student Celebrates, Remembers, Fights

Creighton junior beats cancer, participates in annual event

March 14, 2008

As you walk around the track along with dozens of others, in front of you see a 5- year-old boy.  To your right there is a 70-year-old woman who is a mother, wife, and grandmother.

As you get ready to make the 30th lap around the track at one in the morning, tired, but not yet ready to quit, you look to your left and see a teenager, almost 18 years old.  Printed on the backs of all three of their shirts neatly typed in bold print are the words “I am living proof.”

What these three people can say, along with dozens of others who walk the track at Creighton’s Relay For Life event is that they are survivors.  All were affected by one of hundreds of different types of one similar disease.  These people with different backgrounds, ages and races have one thing in common.  They have beaten the odds.  They have survived cancer.

Arts and Sciences junior Kara Pegram, a member of the survivor committee and eight-time participant in Relay For Life now walks the first lap-the survivor lap-at the event to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  She has been in remission for four years.

This is her story.

She began participating in Relay For Life with her youth group in the 6th grade.  She didn’t personally know anyone affected by cancer, but after her first year, she got to know survivors, family and friends who lost loved ones, and supporters of the cause to fight back.

A year later, she got the dreaded news that her mom had cancer.  The doctors told Pegram’s mother that she did not have much longer to live.  Her doctors were so sure she didn’t have much time that they sent funeral information home with her.

To the doctor’s surprise, Pegram’s mom lived several more years.

Pegram said her mother was not a saint but Pegram remembers only once hearing her complain.  “She didn’t think about it.  She was happy to be there for the things she didn’t think she’d be,” said Pegram.

The story that seemed to be getting better ended far too soon.  Pegram’s mother died in April 2004.

Five months later, in the middle of her senior year, just as she was deciding what colleges to apply for, Pegram found out that she had thyroid cancer.

It started as a bump on her neck.  After a few tests, doctors told Pegram that it was nothing to worry about, that it would eventually go away.  A couple of months later, she returned to the doctor because instead of getting smaller, the bump kept getting bigger.  Doctors once again told Pegram that everything was fine and if she wanted it removed she could.

“I didn’t want to have it removed because I didn’t want to seem vain,” said Pegram.  In spite of her protests, her father insisted on surgery.  After her surgery, she found out that in fact the doctors were wrong. The bump was cancerous and involved even more surgery.

“The word cancer is such a step apart from you.  It is a foreign and odd word,” said Pegram.

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