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A Success Story - Cory Jensen

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Cory Jensen

Cory has graduated from Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah, studying General Education.  Once this is complete, he plans to transfer to the University of Utah to major in Environmental Science.  Cory's cancer experience has motivated him to study environmental science so he can prevent some of the pollutants in the air and water that can cause cancer.  He is a DLBCL (Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma) survivor.  In his own words:

It was late January 2011 and the middle of the ski season.  The tourists were gone and it was time for locals to enjoy the slopes.  I was a high school senior, had already earned enough credits to graduate and was taking concurrent college classes.  School wasn’t a worry, I was almost 18 and I was ready to play. 

Instead, I found myself fast tracking through cancer education, becoming familiar with countless drugs, choosing a port, and learning that I was eligible for Make-A-Wish but needed a medical directive because I would soon be eighteen.  It felt weird discussing end-of-life wishes when I thought my life had just begun. Then my hair fell out -- and I spent my eighteenth birthday in the hospital signing release forms for a lumbar puncture.   

Well I can’t really say I had a favorite nurse, I just leaned on “Irish” the most. He was a robust man with a kind touch.  I’m guessing he weighed about 250 pounds with a full beard and ponytail.  On Valentine’s Day, he dressed as a fairy princess in a pink tutu and leggings.  One of his younger female patients told him he would be much prettier without a beard.  Although he told silly jokes while administering blood transfusions or chemo, and wore a tutu, I knew he had my back and took away stress from the task at hand. A few of my nurses also worked with adult oncology patients and would tell me how lucky I was to be in a children’s hospital.  It seems adults don’t fully appreciate Disney scrubs!

Winter turned to spring and my thoughts to high school graduation.  I had not been to school in nearly four months, had been hospitalized 59-days with home nurse visits and emergency room visits in-between and nearing the end of my last round of chemo.  My goal was to participate in high school graduation commencement exercises.  A little worse for wear, I realized this goal and am proud to be a graduate of the Murray High Class of 2011.

Shortly after graduation, I dropped in to visit some former co-workers.  The previous summer I had the opportunity to intern with a county recreation department working river trips and river rescue workshops.  I wore a ski cap, was white as a ghost, had no eyelashes, and weighed twenty pounds less. Frank asked me who I was and when I told him he said, “Take your hat off so we can recognize you.”  I’ll never forget his stunned face. “You look like Lex Luthor,” he mused. Everyone laughed, I repositioned my hat and Bo commented on how much money my parents were saving on shampoo.  Hearing the commotion Steve came out of his office and without pause said, “Are you ready to go to work, there is a  'wilderness first responder' class starting in two weeks that I’d like you to attend?” Tears pooled in my eyes and I mumbled something that sounded like yes.

I have since become licensed as a 'wilderness first responder' through the University of Utah, obtained a Utah White Water River Guide permit, worked part time and am currently a student at Salt Lake Community College. 

My love of education and its importance is hard to overstate; had it not been for the doctors and nurses who used their education to take care of me, I would not be alive today and will forever be grateful! I have always aspired to go to college, but it is just different now. Reflecting on my experiences and knowing that some air and water pollutants cause cancer, I wish to study environmental science to help ensure that everyone enjoys the beauty and benefits of a healthy world.  Thank you Cancer Survivors' Fund, for being by my side on this most noble journey.”

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