With a clean bill of health, Olivia Hawley plans to showcase what perseverance looks like when she participates in Saginaw Valley State University’s annual Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society Friday, Feb. 26.
For Hawley, a sophomore who plans to graduate with a bachelor's degree in nursing in May 2019, health wasn't always a given.
She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma while a senior at South Lyon East High School in 2012. She began chemotherapy sessions the same week she received her diploma.
“Then I was in remission for a year and a half before I relapsed in 2014,” she said.
With Stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma – the most advanced stage – Hawley dropped out of classes at the university she had been attending. She received more chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiation treatment.
“I'm healthy now,” she said. “So far, so good.”
Hawley, who re-started her college life by enrolling at SVSU in fall 2015, plans to share her story of endurance at the university's Relay For Life event, scheduled from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the Ryder Center.
She also will lead participating cancer survivors in the fundraiser's “Survivors Lap” at 7 p.m.
“I've been involved in Relay For Life near South Lyon for six or seven years, before I was diagnosed,” she said. “One of my best friends had cancer, and that's why I became involved originally. When I got sick, I started my own Relay For Life team.”
The fundraiser now carries additional importance because Hawley's grandmother recently died of ovarian cancer.
“It's for such a good cause,” Hawley said of Relay For Life. “And it's fun, too.”
Relay For Life is considered the world's largest fundraising event to fight cancer. Over 4 million people participated in 6,000 events globally in 2015.
At SVSU, Relay For Life events feature participants taking turns walking or running around a track while also collecting funds through various methods including silent auctions and competition-based fundraising.
The money raised supports the American Cancer Society's efforts to fund groundbreaking cancer research, provide information and critical services for people with cancer.
“It's an extreme honor to be part of this event,” Hawley said.