2022 Bill Meyn Scholarship Winners
Evan Barberis - University of Vermont, Burlington Vermont
Somewhere over central Wyoming, I stared out an airplane window, carefully examining the landscape. All I could see was a vast, barren desert skirted by mountains, the only evidence of civilization being a highway that meandered across the brown, rocky plateau. When I finally saw what appeared to be a small town, I thought about what it must be like living there. I imagined all the inhabitants of the town going about their daily lives, a stark contrast to my current situation. I was on a medical flight from Kalispell, Montana to Denver, Colorado with an IV in my right arm and a blood pressure cuff on my left. The previous day, a blood test revealed that after almost ten cancer-free years, I had relapsed with leukemia. I had one night to pack and say goodbye to all of my friends, and the magnitude of how my life was going to change had not set in and would not for quite some time.
Upon landing in Denver, an ambulance was waiting on the tarmac to take me to the
enormous Children’s Hospital Colorado, to be my home for the foreseeable future. I was taken to a room on the seventh floor Center for Cancer and Blood disorders. The accommodations were standard hospital fare: bed with cyan sheets, window seat, reclining chair, mobile height-adjustable table, television. From the large window, only a small portion of the Rocky Mountains were visible, much of the view being obscured by buildings. One of the only things visible was a freeway which became a river of headlights at night, frequently interrupted by the blue and red flashes of police cars. I spent many a night during my initial two-week admittance watching the endless flow of traffic, imagining that behind every pair of lights was an individual, each with their own story. I felt like a spectator, confined to a hospital room while watching the
world carry on.
After a month and a half of induction treatment, my oncologist recommended a bone marrow transplant. Preparation for transplant included the placement of a central line, several rounds of chemotherapy, and radiation treatment to eliminate all of my native bone marrow. An MRI revealed four spots on my lungs, prompting a lung biopsy followed by a three-night stay in the hospital with a drainage tube protruding from my chest. I spent the next two weeks under the influence of opioid painkillers, during which time the world seemed to fade to a gray hue, and I felt like a zombie, my brain empty, void of thoughts and feelings. Upon receiving radiation treatment and admittance to the hospital, the side effects presented themselves one by one, from mucositis to a constant burning pain in both hands.
During this dark time in my life, one person in particular stood out as a beacon of
optimism. Dr. Keating, who had selected the stem cells that would be used in my transplant, guided me through the difficult treatment with her vast knowledge of the human body and great expertise. She seemed to understand every side effect I was experiencing, and could provide a solution no matter what presented itself. As I progressed through treatment and began to recover, my mood and outlook began to improve alongside my physical condition. I looked back on all the healthcare professionals who were present for my journey, the nurses, the social workers, the doctors, and their dedication to saving lives. I felt a calling, as if I had some obligation to follow in their footsteps, and become a doctor myself. On the drive back home, the
landscape that had seemed flat and barren from an airplane now appeared dynamic, made up of red, rocky cliffs and rolling hills, reminding me of the importance of perspective, and the way my outlook and worldview shifted throughout my time in the hospital.
Ezra Black - Colorado State University, Fort Collins Colorado
In June of 2021, I began to feel poorly. I felt like I would spike a fever every night. I
noticed I was unable to catch a deep breath. I had been running a lot and could no longer even get past a basic warm up for soccer drop-ins. My parents kept taking me to the doctor, trying to figure out what was going on. In late July, I attended a soccer camp in Virginia with my high school soccer team. My health was really bad, but I wanted to be with the team and so after a lot of prayer, my parents and I decided I could go, knowing I would be unable to participate in any of the drills due to my inability to catch a breath. During the week I was in Virginia, my health declined
quickly. I had a high fever, slept the better part of several days and knew something was seriously wrong. As soon as I arrived back home, my dad picked me up from the airport and took me to the ER. After waiting in the ER for about 5 hours and undergoing test after test, the doctor came, through tears he told me that all signs were pointing to leukemia. I was loaded onto an ambulance and rushed to Children’s Hospital.
The next days and weeks are a blur. In just a few days time, I went from thinking I just had a bad chest infection or maybe COVID-19, to being told I had leukemia and would spend the better part of the next 6 months in-patient as I battled for my life. This was devastating news to receive. This was my senior year of high school. I was supposed to play varsity soccer. I had been nominated School Captain. I was playing on the worship team at church. I had a steady job where I was working and saving for college. There were so many things that I loved and looked forward to and it was all
knocked out from under me in a moment.
I have spent the better part of the last 6 months in the hospital undergoing multiple chemo treatments to wipe out leukemia. I recently have completed a bone marrow transplant, and am in the recovery phase of the transplant. This recovery could take up to 9 months to fully be back to a normal life, and I am under strict isolation rules, which has affected my ability to work and make money at this point.
During these last months, everything I have held onto has been pulled out from under me. Everything except my faith. The Lord has shown me over and over in these last months that He is the only thing that is unchanging. He is the only constant in my life. He is the only one who can take tragedy and bring beauty from it. He is the only one who can take a poison, like chemotherapy, and turn it into something beautiful that can save a life. It is God who sustains and God who brings beauty from ashes.
My desire is to pursue a college degree and I would love to do this at a Christian school. I have learned even more over the last months that anything I pursue that is not firmly rooted and founded in the truth of Christ can be lost in a moment. I want to continue to build on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ and I desire that everything I do flow from knowing him more.
Halley Chaine - Pima Medical Institute, Denver Colorado
My name is Halley Marie Chaine. I am 19 years old. I am the oldest of 4 siblings. I have a younger sister and two younger brothers. I have two dogs. In July of 2020 I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I was 17 at the time and it was the summer before my Senior year. May and June of 2020 are when my symptoms started. I had really pale skin, unexplained bruising everywhere, my mouth would bleed pools of blood, and I had this unbearable migraine that lasted for 3 days. I went to the south campus Children’s Hospital emergency room where I was diagnosed and then rushed to Aurora the Children’s Hospital main campus.
That was when my world was flipped upside down. Since this was in the middle of the pandemic, there were so many different Covid precautions everyone had to follow. I say, I was taken away from my family and friends because it was very limited when I could see them. I was told only my mom and dad could be with me. I had to feel good enough to go outside to see visitors.
Fast forward to treatment, I was told 6-8 months of treatment not including a stem cell transplant. I responded so well to the treatment that it took me 3 months plus post stem cell transplant engraftment. I would say the hardest part for me was losing my hair. I felt like a huge part of me was missing. My normal was taken away from me.
I tell people that I was forced to grow up because I was having to make decisions that a 17-year-old should have to make for example, fertility options. It might sound crazy but through all of this I have found a passion for being the light for someone who doesn’t think there is one. I have found a deep passion for the medical field. I can’t wait for what the future hold for me.
Kristen Tefertiller - Grand Canyon University, Phoenix Arizona
On July 3, 2002 a baby girl was born six weeks early. That girl is me; Kristen Tefertiller. I have grown up in Holly all of my life. I have three older sisters; Kayla, Kendra, and Kenzi. I’m the youngest of all of them. I enjoy doing many things such as drawing and painting, hunting, engaging in school activities, spending time with friends, and going on adventures. Also during my junior year in high school I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. So, as you can imagine, I have really enjoyed being in school for my Senior year. I want to further my education at Grand Canyon University and receive a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in forensics.
I grew up in the small town of Holly Colorado with a population of about 800. Around
here it’s an everybody knows everybody type of town. Our theatre is volunteer-based and I have volunteered with my family for as long as I can remember. Some people say that living in the sticks is boring because there is nothing to do. Well, I for one can tell you that I can have way more fun out here in the “sticks” than doing anything in a big city. All I need is my pickup, a dirt road, some good music, and a few of my friends to have the best time.
One thing that I enjoy doing in my little town is being in 4-H, where I am the president of the club. I joined when I was 9 and have enjoyed every year of it. The first couple of years I competed in dog showing competitions with my golden retriever, Sunny. After that, I went on to raising and showing market lambs. 4-H has presented me with many opportunities, such as the Washington D.C. leadership conference that I attended in 2016. Another leadership conference that I attended in 2019 was called RYLA for the rotary groups in Colorado. I was nominated by my principal, Dusty Heck, to attend because he thought I was a perfect candidate for this opportunity.
In school, I strive to do my best and that puts me at the top of my class. I have been the president of my class for my entire high school career. I have also been on the Student Council and at the moment I am the treasurer, National Honor Society, Knowledge Bowl, and was in FFA. All throughout high school, I have maintained a 4.0 grade point average.
I attended school for two weeks of my Junior year, after that on August 28 I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and spent the rest of my school year in Children’s Hospital in Aurora Colorado. The first week or two after I was diagnosed was a blur of being in the hospital and trying to get it through my head that I had just been diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t easy for my family to digest, let alone for me to digest it. After my first round of chemo, we got the very good news that I was in remission, and that meant that I only had to do one more round of chemo before I could go on to have my final chemo and a bone marrow transplant. During all of the chemo rounds, there were hiccups but nothing that my doctors and I couldn’t handle. When it came time to decide what type of bone marrow transplant, I decided to go with the stem cell study. They took an umbilical cord from a baby boy in Germany, took it to Jerusalem, injected it with something that allowed the cells to multiply so I would have enough cells to turn into my bone marrow. Then they were transferred to me, where they are working marvelously and doing their job. I was finally able to come home on March 27, 2020. This journey has taught me to live every day like it is my last and get everything I can out of life. I plan to do just that.
My plan after high school is to attend college at Grand Canyon University and receive my bachelors degree in Psychology with an emphasis in forensics. I want to pursue a career in this field, because I have always been interested in the law and finding justice for those who need it. While I was in the hospital, my psychologist helped me throughout the whole journey and explained what he did, so that peaked my interest. I decided to combine the two of them and hopefully I will end up loving that job. I am wanting to go into the FBI BAU, which is the Behavior Analysis Unit of the FBI. There I will be able to go to crime scenes and try to get into the mind of criminals in order to catch them. I have been doing a lot of research about this job and it seems exciting to me. I want to go into a job that I will enjoy.
All in all, I am a dedicated person that will strive to do my best. I love my friends, family, and community. I am determined to live my life to the fullest whether it is volunteering for my local community, dedicating myself to succeed in school, or fighting one of life’s toughest battles. I want to further my education in Forensic Psychology in order to help people find justice.
Logan Koch - College TBD
Everyone starts their day off with a routine, I wake up I brush my teeth, eat some breakfast, and then I’m out the door and on my way to school. I left home thinking it would be another normal day only to come home later that afternoon to find out my routine would no longer be the same. After receiving the news that my sister Kaydee was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of pediatric bone cancer, I was in disbelief. A lot has changed since that day, and I’ve learned to adapt to our new reality as a family. Watching Kaydee suffer physically and emotionally has been painful and the fact she is unable to do normal everyday things a college student should do has been difficult to witness. I often feel guilty being able to do the things she can’t. As much as this experience has been fearful it has also taught me to be thankful for my family and friends. What I want more than anything is for Kaydee to be cured and I’m extremely grateful for organizations, such as Caruso Family Charities, who offer support to families like ours.
Samantha Balint - Southern Utah University, Cedar City Utah
I was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when I was just 2-year-old. Having that it was only in one eye and a fear that it could make it to my brain, my parents decided that the best decision would be to remove my eye. Since I was only 2, simply hobbling along, and barely even potty trained this life changing event had no memorable effect on me. When growing up, starting school I was different from all the other kids. Kids would ask what's wrong with me, call me names like zombie and cyclops. The kids in my class would sometimes cover my seeing eye and tease me on the fact that I was unable to see anything. I wanted to hide the fact that I lost my eye to cancer. I wouldn't tell anyone, not even my teachers. It took me a while to realize that this
made me special and unique, and instead of hiding it, I began to share my story and educate others around me.
Cancer is a monumental life change for a child to go through. When people hear that you have had cancer, they think of the bad. They think of the times in the hospital getting poked and prodded but the most valuable life lesson I've received is from going through that battle as a child. Cancer and seeing the effects that it has on other children has given me a bigger appreciation for life and how lucky we are to have it. While most kids grow up thinking the worst thing that could happen to them is getting grounded or their phone taken away, children with cancer are different. We grew up fighters that had to fight for our lives everyday because we had to fight for our lives everyday. These events that we exposed to changed our perspective on
life. And I, being one of the lucky ones, coming out with only an eye as a casualty, gave me a love of life that I will never lose. Down the road, when my life gets harder with school, jobs, and relationships, I'll be grateful that I am able to go through all these hardships because I know some children will never get the chance. I have always tried to give back to the community to show my gratitude. In doing so I’ve raised 50,000 dollars with my Relay for Life Team for the American Cancer society. I was given the opportunity to attend the Shining Stars Foundation winter games camp and was able to give a speech telling my story at the local elementary school.
I plan on attending Southern Utah University to receive my bachelors of science in
information systems with an emphasis in cybersecurity than later pursuing my masters degree in cybersecurity online. The Cybersecurity field has grown exponentially over the last couple of years with a multitude of different career options. I hope to pursue a career with the NSA in cyber defense. I am aware that this will not be an easy path but I am prepared to work tirelessly to hone in my skills and become the best I can be. I want to pursue a career in cyber defense to help protect my country while cyber attacks continue to become a bigger threat.