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How SIU is helping students affected by breast cancer

Elizabeth Andrews, a senior from Chicago studying Marketing, poses for a portrait Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Carbondale. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, Andrews was awarded a 2016 Saluki Strength Breast Cancer Scholarship. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

Elizabeth Andrews, a senior from Chicago studying Marketing, poses for a portrait Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Carbondale. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, Andrews was awarded a 2016 Saluki Strength Breast Cancer Scholarship. (Autumn Suyko | @AutumnSuyko_DE)

By Diamond Jones

Elizabeth Andrews has a tattoo on her right shoulder of a pink ribbon wrapped around a butterfly that serves as a reminder of her mother’s fight against breast cancer.

She was a freshman in high school when she got the news. That was the year her father kept pink roses around the house to remind the family of the struggle they faced and show support to her mother.

“I would think, ‘How am I going to grow up without a mom?’” said Andrews, a senior from Chicago studying marketing.

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The National Cancer Institute estimates breast cancer occurs in 125 of every 100,000 women, according to data compiled between 2009 and 2013. It is the most common cancer diagnosis among women in the United States.

Stories like Andrews’ are why SIU has offered the Saluki Strength Breast Cancer Scholarship for the last three years. The money is given to provide additional assistance to SIU students who have been affected by breast cancer.

This year, three scholarships — worth $1,250 each — were awarded to juniors or seniors with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher upon submitting a short essay about how breast cancer affected their lives.

While her mom was going through her last treatment, the grandmother of Andrews’ friend was in a nearby bed fighting the same battle. During this time, the two women with cancer became much closer before her friend’s grandma passed away.

Her mother’s treatment ended as Andrews finished her first year of high school. She went into remission and has been cancer-free since.

“That’s when I knew things were better and it was over,” Andrews said.

The scholarships were funded through money raised during the university’s Start Seeing Pink campaign.

“We want to be able to assist students who’ve been affected by breast cancer in the best way we can,” said Beth Alongi, coordinator the campaign. “If there’s any way to make students successful at SIU, that would be the goal.”

She said there were 12 to 25 applicants in previous years, with scholarship awards ranging from $750 to more than $1,000 based on the success of the fundraising.

Alongi, who is also the assistant director of marketing at the Student Center, said students can order Start Seeing Pink apparel and all proceeds will go toward next year’s scholarships.

“The feedback we received from the scholarship recipients last year was amazing,” Alongi said. “It’s hard to pick from all their stories because they’re all deserving and it’s honoring being apart of a life-changing experience for students.”

Stephanie Mueller, another one of this year’s scholarship recipients, is a senior from Carbondale studying German Studies. She was 15 years old when her mother was diagnosed.

“My first reaction was one of disbelief,” Mueller said. “My family and friends were calling constantly and asking if I needed anything, and that’s when it hit me. I realized, my mom has cancer.”

As a high schooler, Mueller said she felt as though no one understood what she was going through even though people always offered condolences. But being recognized with the scholarship, which she put toward her tuition, was something that made Mueller and her mother happy.

“I always encourage people who have been through a similar experience to go for the scholarship,” Mueller said. “I know it’s tough going through the battle, but it gets better and you have to keep fighting to win.”

Campus reporter Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

To stay up to date with all your SIU news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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