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Taking the fight to cancer
A 21-year-old GFU students fight with disease starts a growing movement
By Heather DeRosa, Graphic news intern
Haley Bellows sat on Rachel Morells office floor, stunned at the news that not only was cancer no longer in remission, she now faced a battle against a second cancer as well. As Bellows sat there, pondering her fate, Morell offered a suggestion.
What if I made you a shirt? she asked.
She told Bellows it could say anything she wanted. All Bellows could think of was Eff Cancer. After all, this wouldnt be the first time shed faced the fight of her life. Little did Bellows know, that six months later the duo would have screen printed and sold more than 600 shirts.
In April 2012, then 20-year-old Bellows was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The treatment? Surgery and an oral chemotherapy regimen.
After going in and out of remission several times throughout the past two years, Bellows then received the news that non-Hodgkins lymphoma returned, and this time with a secondary cancer of colon cancer.
With the next round of cancer treatments being much more aggressive, she needs the help of the Eff Cancer shirts to help pay for her treatments. Every other Thursday and Friday, for 10 hours a day, Bellows is hooked up to an IV receiving chemotherapy. She undergoes radiation treatments as well and once wrote on her blog that these t-shirts are literally keeping her alive.
As a first generation college student the Kalama, Wash. native, has been driven since day one of enrolling at GFU to complete her degree in social work in four years. Now, she has had to readjust that goal, hopefully graduating only a semester behind her peers.
I have had to give myself grace to not have the normal college student experience, Bellows said. Ive taught myself how to balance things.
Bellows is not experiencing any major problems with her cancer treatments. As a student with a weakened immune system, she is susceptible to just about any contagious illness that goes around campus. She noted that in addition to her weakened immune system, the biggest problem right now has been figuring out the speed of her chemo drip to lessen the side effects.
The longer the drip, the less amount of side effects mainly nausea and extreme fatigue, she said. But if you stretch it too much, you have to add in an extra steroid, which causes insomnia. So we are in the midst of finding the perfect chemo cocktail.
But it is looking like the end of chemo may be in sight.
As of now, I am looking at only having three more chemo treatments, but I have scans in a month or so that will determine exactly how many more I have, she said. But because I have had the cancer come back several times, there is no saying that it wont happen again this time.
With a potentially good prognosis ahead of her, and her history of cancer returning, Bellows remains trusting for what is next for her in her fight with cancer.
I have come to trust my doctors, and most of all trust God through this, which has become most influential for me she said. Especially since I have learned how to trust him with the realization that if the goal is to spend a pain free eternity in heaven, then this disease taking my life is not the worst thing that can happen.
While there is nothing fair about being 21 years old and fighting cancer, Bellows said remains hopeful that through her suffering she can serve. She points to her faith in God for help to guide her through her fight with cancer with a positive attitude.
Theres always that question of why is there still struggling? she said. I dont let that question get me down. Although there is never an easy answer, there (are) reasons. I have a God that knows brokenness. We will suffer, but we need to serve through it.
The scene of Bellows sitting on Morells floor, wondering where to go and what to do next, is the beginning of the story for Bellows Eff Cancer movement. Morell and Bellows quickly became friends after Bellows served on Morells husband, Jonathans resident assistance staff. Morell used her skills as a screen printer to help Bellows friends support her as her fight with cancer continues.
Morell quickly created 20 brightly colored shirts, donning her slogan Eff Cancer, followed with #suckitcancer #seriously, reflecting Bellows sense of humor. Morell then posted pictures of the shirts on Facebook. Almost instantly, Bellows received a text from a friend asking where she could buy one of the shirts. She had no idea Morell actually went on and made the shirts to sell in support of her. In no more than five hours, the shirts were sold out.
Its a sign that cancer affects so many, Bellows said. We are still continually surprised. Its weird. I never would have expected it.
Because the movement has grown in a short time, plans for what is next are developing.
We are figuring out what our hopes for the future are, Bellows said.
Recently, Kayin and Cary Griffith, a couple employed at GFU who are also freelance web designers, bought the website addresss www.effcancermovement.org in an effort of expand the movement.
The website will be a place to house information about the Eff Cancer movement, including a portion for the Facebook page, the Etsy store and Bellows blog.
We love Haley and believe in using our voices to help motivate people to make a difference in the lives of others, Kayin Griffith wrote in an email.
The Griffiths said they hope to have the website launched in around eight weeks.
In addition to selling her shirts through Etsy, Bellows has also started a Go Fund Me project online for those who want to donate to her organization without purchasing a shirt. In a span of five days, more than $4,000 has been raised. Bellows goal is to raise $18,000 to cover the cost of treatments and hospital stays.
To purchase a shirt, sweatshirt, or tank top visit her Etsy website, www.etsy.com/shop/effcancermovement. To make a donation, visit her Go Fund Me website, www.gofundme.com/effcancermovement.