Students get help in dealing with cancer

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    By SARA GILES

    She itched constantly. She lost her appetite. At 5’9, she weighed 85 lbs. She had a 7 lb. tumor that almost took her life.

    At 19, Shawna Presley, a sophomore from Long Beach, Calif. majoring in psychology, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in June 1998. The correct diagnosis came after the many misdiagnoses in which Presley was told she was anorexic or depressed.

    A week later, Shawna was in the hospital, undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. After a year of treatment, she was able to return to school at BYU where she joined HERO, a break-off group from the American Cancer Society that is not affiliated with BYU but has members that are BYU students, Presley said.

    HERO is comprised of people who have been affected by cancer. This includes friends, family, survivors and people who want to know about cancer. Cancer is a difficult subject to talk about because people feel uncomfortable with the aspect of death and disease involved, Presley said.

    “I would never want my friends to know what I have gone through because if they did, they would know too much. They would have to have been through this and I would never want them to,” Presley said.

    As a BYU student, Presley recently went to the Student Health Center after she had difficulty breathing while doing her usual exercise. After showing the doctors at the Health Center her medical history, they immediately sent her to a pulmonologist who told her that because of the effects of radiation treatment, half of her diaphragm was paralyzed.

    “If I had gone in there complaining of feeling tired, they would have said that I had a cold. You have to be firm in describing symptoms,” Presley said.

    Cancer is sometimes difficult to diagnose and can pass unnoticed.

    “A lot of times cancer can’t be picked up,” said Rulon J. Barlow, M.H.A., administrative director of the Student Health Center.

    Cancer does not seem to be prevalent among the BYU population, Barlow said.

    “We have a pretty healthy population,” he said.

    The center’s policy is to refer students who have warning signs to specialists in their respective areas, Barlow said.

    Other information about specific types of cancer can be picked up at the Cancer Research Center or through other organizations, such as the Cancer Awareness Group on campus, that are dedicated to helping students obtain information about cancer and personal fitness.

    The Cancer Awareness Group affiliated with BYU is dedicated to helping people become involved in cancer awareness through service. The Cancer Awareness Group participates in working towards a cure and serving people who have cancer as well as their families in order to give hope and positive support.

    “To have hope is essential to beating cancer,” said Dr. Daniel L. Simmons, director of the Cancer Research Center.

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