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Sophia Collett: Two Years Tumor Free

Sophia and her little brother, Wyatt. 2017.

Sophia and her little brother, Wyatt. 2017.

Sophia and her little brother, Wyatt. 2017.

Autumn Hoff, Junior Website Editor

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Every incoming freshman thinks of high school as a scary place, but they soon find out that it’s not much different than middle school, just at a more mature level. I was just learning this fact when things did, in fact, become rather scary. At the end of September, one of my best friends, Sophia Collett, discovered a golf ball sized lump on her collar bone. It’s not a very clear memory for me, I only recall that whole day was just surreal; but for her that day is branded into her memory forever.

“My mom made me a doctor’s appointment and my step dad took me. That was the first time I ever connected me and cancer in the same sentence. My doctor was extremely blunt and he said straight up, that’s what he thought it was. That period of my life was filled with extreme bluntness. He wanted me to get a CT scan immediately, but I had just eaten lunch, so they sent me back to school until the proper amount of time had passed. I remember sitting in seventh period freshman English and I had heard a kid complain they had a slight headache and I couldn’t help but wonder how a person could complain about a small headache when I had just found out I probably had cancer. Of course I didn’t say this out loud.”

They got a call from the doctor the next day and were told that based off of the scans, he thought the lump had to be some form of cancer. He also informed them that he had scheduled a biopsy appointment for the next morning in Scottsbluff.

“Imagine what it feels like to see your mother’s face when a doctor tells her that her child has cancer. It’s a sight that haunts a person forever.””

— Sophia Collett

“Imagine what it feels like to see your mother’s face when a doctor tells her that her child has cancer. It’s a sight that haunts a person forever.”

For the next eleven days we all sat in angst, especially at lunch when Sophia would call her mother, seeing if the results from her biopsy were in. However, on the 11th day, October 10, 2014, I wasn’t there… my father had an art show opening up in Lead, South Dakota. So, when Sophia called her mother on that day and the answer wasn’t “no results” but instead “do you want to talk now or wait until tonight” and she sat crammed together with Safyre Yearling and Destinee Kramer as her mother told her that she had stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was not present. I found out that night while wandering around my dad’s art show through a text that went something along the lines of “Fox… I have stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.” And that was it. I found out my best friend had cancer.. from a simple text message. It killed me.

Angela Figueroa, Sophia Collett, Autumn Hoff, Kyarra Bullock, and Marque Crowe at a football game shortly after Sophia was diagnosed. 2014. 

“I started chemotherapy on October 25, I was on 6 different drugs. Every time I had chemo it was in three day stints. The first day I would be hit with all six drugs at once, they had to flush my kidneys, load me up on antihistamines because I was allergic to one of my drugs, and anti-nausea meds because I threw everything up. The first day always took around eight or nine hours in total. The second day took four because they only did 3 drugs on that day. And then the final day only took around an hour and a half, the reason being I only needed one drug that day, unfortunately it was the one that I was allergic to. After I got done we’d drive all the way home from Denver and I’d go right back to school, then we’d do it all over again in two weeks. I did this from October 2014 to February 2015.”

In the long months that followed the announcement that Sophia was diagnosed with cancer, she went through Chemo treatment, and was only in school a couple days a week. At first it was very odd not hear her crack jokes in our 7th period English class and at lunch everyday, but it soon became a routine to only hearing them a few days a week. There was an odd silence that I didn’t like hearing.

By the end of her chemo treatment in February 2015, Sophia met all of the criteria to be officially in remission, except for one thing. The tumor in her chest was still too large, so she was given two options. She could wait a couple months and see if the tumor would shrink and if by the end of those two months it wasn’t small enough, she would have to endure chemo again, except more aggressive than the last time.

Sophia posing with her cat while going through chemo treatment.

The second option and the one she went with was to do a month of radiation treatment, which would provide a higher guarantee of the tumor shrinking effectively. In order to go through the radiation treatment, she had to miss a month of school, which didn’t make a huge difference since she was only there a day or two every week as it was, but nevertheless, her absence was always noticeable and hard to deal with.

“I missed a month of school that March, just for 20 minutes of radiation treatment every day, only coming home on the weekends.”

The last few months of the school year, Sophia was there more often. She still wasn’t back 100% of the time, but it was definitely a step up from the two days a week standard. It also made keeping up on her schoolwork a lot easier.

Sophia and friends at her birthday/ going away party before going on her Make A Wish trip to Hawaii. 2015.

On May 28, 2015, the best news came. Sophia was officially in remission. I remember how excited everyone was about it and how it seemed almost too good to be true at first. It was more like the ending of a fairy tale than real life.

Anyone that has ever interacted with Sophia knows that she has this sense of humor that gets at least a little cackle out of just about everyone. She always gives off a joyful and welcoming vibe that has just become a part of who she is. She kept her lighthearted attitude through all the things she lost.

“During everything I went through a lot. But my way of coping was to just push through it and feel no emotion. Even when I pulled hair out in chunks, I blew it off, telling myself I wouldn’t let the cancer take me, or any part of me, I shaved my head. I refused the cancer to own me, which is why I continued with school, absolutely determined to graduate with my class. Internalizing and brushing emotion away was what I did best.”

It isn’t a secret that cancer often leads its victims into depression. Experienced oncologists are often the first to recognize signs of depression in their patients. Soph’s oncologist suspected her as a victim since she always remained so calm through all of her treatments.

“In reality, I was actually as fine as I said I was. I really wasn’t depressed; in my heart, I knew I was going to be okay. It wasn’t until after I was declared in remission that everything they thought I was going to go through hit me. It’s odd the way it happened. When you push something so painful away for so long, when it finally hits you it knocks you twice as hard as it would have in the first place. Of course, when it finally hit me, I didn’t tell anyone. One thing I had learned was how to hide and put on a front. It was and to this day might still be one of my strongest qualities. It wasn’t until months later that I was in such a scary place that I finally told who is now my best friend. I wasn’t suicidal. I was just scared and anxious. What I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to get help. If you have anxiety, if you have depression, or anything, get help. Don’t hide it. Don’t pretend you’re okay.”

Sophia, Lezlie Hausman, and Autumn Hoff at the Alliance Homecoming Dance in the Fall of 2016.

That summer Soph and her family went to Hawaii for her Make A Wish trip. Other than that, the only big reminder of her cancer is her occasional oncologist check up. Her life has reverted to just about how it was before. Her hair has grown back, she’s back working on the ranch, and she’s even Vice President of the Alliance FFA. She has taken back the life she wanted.

Two years may not seem like a very large landmark, but in the cancer patient world it definitely is one to celebrate. The first two years of remission are the ones at the highest risk for relapse. Remission may mark that Sophia is in the clear, but there’s always the possibility of her tumor making a larger reappearance. Modern medicine can only cure so much, after all.

“The tumor in my chest being as unpredictable as it is I’m in almost a constant state of worry. I worry when I get sick I worry when I cough I worry when I get tired easily.”

Despite her worries, things have remained unchanged with Sophia’s health. She doesn’t have any signs of a relapse occurring anytime soon and we can only hope it continues to look that way. So here’s to two years of remission and many more to come!


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1 Comment

One Response to “Sophia Collett: Two Years Tumor Free”

  1. Betty Joe Adkins on May 4th, 2017 2:59 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful girl! I read the story very teary eyed as Sophie is my cousins granddaughter! I remember praying and putting her on prayer lists in Nebraska City where I live. Sophie is strong and comes from a long line of strong women as I have watched some of her ancestors react to challenges. Thanks for the uplifting story!


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