2024 – Awardee – Hadley Sheen – Ridgeline HS

Mar 26, 2024


Seventeen. That’s how old I was when I faced the biggest challenge of my life. On November 3rd, 2023 I woke up at six o’clock in the morning to a sharp pain on the left side of my body. I knew something was wrong but I downplayed it in my head, tossing and turning for what felt like days but was really a few hours. I told my parents and we went to urgent care where I had an x-ray. The doctor recommended I go for an MRI. Specifically, I needed an MRI with contrast which meant an IV. However, I am deathly afraid of needles. I remember thinking it was the worst experience of my life, little did I know. On the drive home we received a phone call. I remember watching my dad put it on speaker. A calm hello followed by the question of our identity. Then in the blink of an eye my entire world flipped. “They’ve found a mass on your scan. It appears to be a 32cm tumor.” I remember the burn of the quick moment of silence that followed as the words filtered through my dad and I’s brain. Later, I remember him hanging up and turning to ask if I was alright and honestly, I was. Yeah it was shocking news but I still had hope and I was clinging to it. I told myself if you start worrying about something before it happens it’s more unpleasant. Save the anxiety for the moment. I took some deep breaths and thought of the positive. It could be benign, this doesn’t mean cancer. I debated whether I should go to school for the hour because I had a test I needed to take and an essay to finish. However due to my pain I stayed home, opting to just work on the essay. We figured out I would need major surgery down at the University of Utah due to the size of the tumor. I had worked tirelessly to keep my 4.0 gpa in my classes up to that point and was worried it would be sacrificed for my health. I remember frantically emailing my teachers to explain the situation and luckily I was met with understanding and compassion. The week leading up to my surgery was the most stressful week of my life. I was working with my teachers to take my finals and finish projects. I was taking four concurrent enrollment classes through Utah state University and worked with them to get the proper credit for all my classes and an extension on my Chemistry 1010. On November 10th, 2023 I entered the oncology building of UofU and underwent abdominal surgery on my mucinous cystadenoma. Essentially a semi liquid filled ovarian cyst. My tumor weighed seventeen pounds, measuring 11 x 9 x 5 inches. Through my recovery I faced both mental and physical challenges like I had never faced before. I cried more than I care to admit, but knew it was good for me to go through the emotions rather than push them down. I talked to my family a lot about my struggles, confiding in my brothers and parents about how scared I was that I would never be back to normal. That I would be stuck depending on someone to help me stand for the rest of my life. They reminded me that it was all part of the process and that it wouldn’t last forever. That mindset helped me heal both mentally and physically as at each trial I reminded myself that I may not have had control over the situation but I had control over my reaction. I took a lot of deep breaths, and I celebrated every achievement no matter the size to help motivate me. I talked to the people around me and reminded myself that they loved me and I wasn’t a burden. They were happy to support me and more than willing to do anything I needed. After six very hard weeks from the discovery of the tumor to my recovery, I made it through. I managed to keep my 4.0 with an A in every class. I was able to return to school and life as normal with the exception of a 15 inch scar. Although the hardest experience of my life, I’m grateful for what it taught me. I have people in my life who care about me, and I can face challenges with a positive attitude to overcome and succeed.

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