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Cherish What Is Around You: Meet 2016 Recipient Olivia Valk

"I cherish life more and never take any moments for granted, you never know when it will be your last or your life will get put on hold." - Olivia 


If there is one thing in the world you could change, what would it be and how would you do it?

I want to change how many stray animals we have in Wisconsin and eventually move to other states.  Having communities donate to help build shelters and pay for food so these helpless animals have somewhere to stay would decrease the number of strays on the streets.  It will also decrease the number of deaths of strays and diseases they can catch and carry around.


Where do you see yourself 5 years after graduation?

I see myself in veterinary school for large animals.


Why did the chicken cross the road?

I don’t know, but I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.


What makes you happy?

Animals and soccer.


What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when I was 10 years old.


How did the diagnosis of cancer rock your world?

Being so young and unaware of what cancer was, I thought I was going to die. We had just built our new house and all of the bills really took a hit on us.  I missed a year of schooling with my peers and had to be at home because I was so sick.  I was barely allowed to go outside, so playing soccer wasn’t an option for a while and that killed me.  I just wanted to be ‘normal’ again.


Describe the process of getting back into life after treatment.

It wasn’t really difficult for me.  My energy level was the only thing that was low for a while after completing my treatments, but I pushed through it and regained my strength and finally felt like a kid again.


How has overcoming cancer made you stronger?

Overcoming cancer has made me mature way faster than my peers.  I cherish life more and never take any moments for granted, you never know when it will be your last or your life will get put on hold. 



Many people aren’t familiar with the financial, physical, and emotional toll when treatment is over.  Describe your process of recovery after treatment spiritually, emotionally, and financially.

I lost my faith when I heard the words, “You have cancer”.  I was mad at everything, especially God. Emotionally, I was sad, but I could see how hard my parents were taking it and I tried to make them feel better and not so down.  Financially, it was a blow to our family.  My mom stopped working to take care of me and my dad had to take time off to see me and go up to Madison when needed.  It was very stressful and I could see it on their faces everyday.


What does it mean to have a support community during cancer treatment?

It means extra prayers and extra support not only for me, but my family as well.  It helped us with meals and gas money to Madison every week and gave us a sense of not going through this alone.


What does it mean to receive scholarship money to help you achieve your academic goals?

It means the world to me.  Without receiving scholarship money, I wouldn’t be able to attend Platteville.  It is going to make me work extra hard to not let down the donors and the groups that gave me my scholarship money.


How has the MHH scholarship helped you?

It’s given me relief to know that I won’t have to come up with as much money for my fall tuition.


Top 3 things you are grateful for since remission.

My life, my support system, and the chance to share my experiences with others.


Top 3 life goals (places you’d like to visit, things you want to do, etc.)

To go to Fiji, to own my own large animal clinic, and to have a family.


Advice for other young adult cancer survivors.

Keep yourself busy.  Surround yourself with positive influences and people so that you stay positive as well.  Drink lots of milk and eat lots of healthy foods, trust me, it helps in the long run.  Finally, never give up even when times seem tough. Push through it, you’ll be able to say “I’m a cancer survivor”.


Biggest take-away(s) from your cancer experience.

That I was given the chance to be a cancer survivor.  BUT, I wouldn’t have been able to say that if it wasn’t for Dr. Diamond and all of the wonderful nurses helping me get through it all.


Words to live by.

Take life one step at a time.  Live each experience in the moment because you might not get that same experience again.



More info on Olivia Hero Powers here.

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ore info on Somer's Hero Powers here.