“Oh, you’re Campbell’s sister.” This is what I would hear whenever I was being introduced to a new person at my school, or in my town, or at my dance studio, or at work, or anywhere that there was someone new. My youngest sister, Campbell, was diagnosed with cancer the summer before I went into sixth grade. She was three. I never thought that her diagnosis would still be impacting my life in major ways almost seven years later.
I am currently a high school senior and, like many others, I had to go through the whole college application process earlier this year. I thought I was prepared,
but then I was asked how many siblings I have. Automatically I said two, but I hesitated. The summer before my junior year, my sister died after battling ependymoma, a cancer of the brain and spine, for five years and two days. It sucked enough having to deal with losing one of my sisters, but being asked how many siblings I have and their ages? Wow, low blow.
That same summer, I was set to attend the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Student Leadership Academy at Villanova University. I had just gotten back from a two week trip to France when I found out that my sister had been put on hospice. The following week was the academy, but, under the circumstances at home, I was lucky enough to have my acceptance deferred to the following year.
The summer before my senior year, I finally got to attend the ALSF Student Leadership Academy and I am glad to say that I had the time of my life. It has always been hard for me to put myself out there, but at a camp geared towards teenagers interested in helping kids with cancer? With my story? Talk about being an awkward person. Luckily, my roommate and I hit it off right away and I quickly made more friends after that. The kids at the Student Leadership Academy were from across the country, from Texas to New Hampshire, and were interested in different things from entrepreneurship to student government. Although we were all different in so many ways, we all had a connection that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
The Academy taught me how to be myself, to be a leader, and to not be afraid to tell MY story. Although the patients are super important, the siblings are just as important and play a crucial role in their brother or sister’s fight. Time and time again, I found myself telling my sister’s story when I was asked to share my story. But the Academy helped me find the strength that I didn’t know I had to tell my side of what I went through.
Both my sisters taught me how to love someone unconditionally, and that sisters are forever. After my sister died, someone once corrected me, when I said that I had two sisters. They told me that I only had one, but I turned right around and said “no, as much as you disagree with me, I will always have two sisters.” I may or may not have said a few things after that that weren’t as kind, but I’ll leave those out because that isn’t my point. My point is that once you have something that you love so much, even if it’s only for a short eight years, you will always have that something with you.
If you are looking to attend the ALSF Student Leadership Academy, I strongly encourage you to do so. Trust me when I say that you will find things about yourself that you never knew, and that you will make friends and connections you never thought you would have.
Caitlin Hoyt is 18 years old and has two younger sisters, Caroline and Campbell. In the Fall, she will be a freshman at Elon University, studying dance science on a pre-physical therapy track.
The 2016 ALSF Student Leadership Academy
is open to rising high school juniors and seniors and will begin on Monday, July 25th and will last through Thursday, July 28th, 2016 at Villanova University. The program, lodging and meals are provided free of charge to accepted students (students must arrange their own transportation to Philadelphia). Learn more here and apply now to join us!