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Student Cancer Survivor a Dedicated Participant in Relay For Life at UC

Meredith Reeve’s battle with childhood cancer led her to pursue a career she would never have imagined at that time.

Date: 4/19/2010
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
Meredith Reeve is one of opening speakers and one of the more than 1,800 people who will take part in the overnight Relay For Life on UC’s McMicken Commons April 23-24 – an event that is striving to raise $160,000 to benefit American Cancer Society’s education, advocacy and research programs – including American Cancer Society-funded research at UC. It’s the 22-year-old nursing major’s fourth year of participation and it’s also a personal victory celebration, after she overcame cancer at just five years old.
Meredith Reeve
Meredith Reeve

Back in 1993, Reeve, who’s from Kings Mills, Ohio, says she endured four exploratory surgeries as doctors tried to solve the mystery of what was causing her intense abdominal pain. “Then, they found the tumor and at first, they were concerned that I was a stage IV cancer patient,” she says.

Reeve was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor in her kidney – a malignant tumor that reportedly accounts for about five percent of all cancers in children. She says she endured 18 months of chemotherapy following the tumor removal.

“Since I was pretty much in and out of (Cincinnati) Children’s Hospital most of my life, I hated everything medically related. It was to the point that certain smells that I remembered would make me sick,” she says.

But just over a decade after her childhood battle with cancer, Reeve says she doubled over in pain as a high-school student, after coming home from a tennis lesson. Another trip to the hospital resulted in removal of scar tissue, and it was then that she became interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. “I was 16 at the time and it was then that I really appreciated the nursing care and staff around me. Here I had spent my life hating that atmosphere, but it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And since oncology was such a big part of my life, that’s what I wanted to specialize in.”

Meredith Reeve

Reeve adds that her college search initially focused on leaving the state, but she knew that UC had a strong nursing program, so she and her mom scheduled a campus visit. “I fell in love with the place and UC was the only school I ended up applying to,” she says.

Her mother, Cheryl, recently gave Meredith her mother’s personal day-to-day journal she had kept of Meredith’s cancer battle when she was a child. It’s the journal of a caregiver that described her anguish in seeing her child suffer through that cancer ordeal. “It took me two hours to read the whole thing and when I was finished, I was crying,” she says.

She’s seeing a different view of her childhood battle now, as she co-ops on the hematology/oncology floor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She wants to dedicate her future to helping children overcome cancer. On one of her UC clinical experiences at Children’s, she even came across a nurse educator who had served as Reeve’s nurse when she was battling childhood cancer.

For the past two years, she says she has been a recipient of a youth cancer survivor scholarship funded by the American Cancer Society.

It’s this history and her goals for the future that make her a regular at UC’s Relay For Life on McMicken Commons, where Reeve is part of a team representing her Theta Alpha Phi Sorority and Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. Her sorority big sister, Nicole Drumm –  a melanoma survivor – was also a Relay participant before she graduated from UC.

Relay For Life at UC is the largest student-organized community service event on campus. Student organizers are expecting at least 170 teams representing more than 1,800 to take part in a night of fun, determination and remembrance. The eighth-annual Relay For Life at UC gets underway at 5:45 p.m., Friday, April 23, on UC’s McMicken Commons, and runs through noon, Saturday, April 24. Cancer survivors take part in the first lap at 6 p.m.

Relay For Life student organizer Megan Hathaway says last year UC's Relay For Life raised over $150,000 for the American Cancer Society and that in just seven years, UC has raised over $500,000 through Relay For Life at UC. She adds that UC has hosted the number one collegiate Relay For Life in Ohio for the past two years and was recognized in 2009 as one of the top 10 best collegiate Relay For Life events in the nation.

After the event, UC students will continue fundraising for Relay For Life through Aug. 31. UC faculty, staff, students and members of the Cincinnati USA community can support UC Relay For Life by making a donation. Donation information can be found on the UC Relay For Life Web site.

“Considering everything that has happened to me, Relay holds a special place in my heart,” Reeve says. “I just love that it brings so many people together on campus for a night of fun and for a great cause, and it’s a testament to the meaningful work that is accomplished by UC students.”

UC Relay For Life Web site