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Finding Her True Calling: Meet 2016 Recipient Emma Paulson


"MHH gave me the freedom to choose a college I knew I would thrive in without having to worry about not being able to afford it due to my previous medical expenses." - Emma


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

If I could change one thing, I would bring more awareness to the fact that childhood cancer is majorly underfunded. Very few people know that all childhood cancers combined receive only 3.8% of federal funding for research. I have already taken a trip to Washington DC to share my story of treatment and survival and to persuade government officials to allocate more funding to childhood cancer research.


Where do you see yourself 5 years after graduation?

In five years after graduation, I hope to be settled down with a family and working in my dream hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, as a pediatric oncology nurse.


Why did the chicken cross the road?

Ask the chicken!


What have you been up to since receiving the MHH scholarship?

Since I received the MHH scholarship I have continued to pursue my nursing degree only now I am at a different college than I was last year now that my health is better, and I was able to move on campus to a school out of state. I continue to keep up my Patient Helping Patients foundation and am active in volunteering at a children’s hospital.


What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in January of 2012 when I was 16 years old.


How did the diagnosis of cancer rock your world?

As a previously healthy athlete the news came as a complete shock. Before my diagnosis I was able to run 6 miles every day no problem to hardly being able to walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath days in the days leading up to my diagnosis.


Describe the process of getting back into life after treatment.

The process of starting school after my diagnosis while still in treatment was very difficult especially being a teenager. Nobody knew how to react or what to say, but thankfully I had an amazing group of friends and such a strong support system that helped the transition process go as smoothly as possible.


How has overcoming cancer made you stronger?

I learned how to face every tough situation knowing I have conquered something far worse and how not to make a big deal about small situations, knowing so many people have it far worse.



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. After treatment, life didn’t go back to normal as quickly as I hoped. Even now, almost 2 years after I completed treatment, I still struggle to find a new normal. Emotionally I am much stronger than I was during my treatment. I suffered with anxiety before my chemo treatments and especially during procedure days, but thanks to my psychologist I was able to overcome that obstacle. Financially, we are still getting caught up after having to pay for years of medical procedures in addition to college tuition for now 2 children. Finally, physically, it took me almost two years to regain the muscle strength I used to have as an athlete. I attended weekly physical therapy before being able to walk without assistance, and I am just now getting back into running long distances.


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

My support system was the number one thing that kept me going. From all the prayers, to the daily meals, gifts, and visits from friends, I knew I had all the support I needed to get through my battle.


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

After going through such expensive medical treatments right before starting college I was worried that I was not going to be able to afford a good college, but fortunately, due to all the survivor scholarships out there, especially MHH, I was able to choose a college I fell in love with that we could afford and would help me pursue my nursing degree.


How has the MHH scholarship helped you?

MHH gave me the freedom to choose a college I knew I would thrive in without having to worry about not being able to afford it due to my previous medical expenses.


Top 3 things you are grateful for since remission.

1. Continued health.

2. The newfound friendships I have formed with other survivors.

3. The passion I have discovered to pursue a nursing degree to help future pediatric oncology patients.


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

1.Graduate with my BSN

2.Travel Europe

3.Visit all 50 states before I turn 50.


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

The 2 biggest things I learned throughout my treatment are to look for one positive thing every day and that my true calling and passion in life is to be a pediatric nurse. 


Words to live by.

My three very favorite quotes are:

“She believed she could so she did.”

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”


More info on Emma's Hero Powers here.

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Want to sponsor a scholarship for a future MHH recipient? Learn more and take on the SCHOLAR SQUAD CHALLENGE. - See more at: