By Sara Bondell - August 22, 2018
18-year-old Kelviyana Walker is packing up her room.
She’s headed to the University of Florida, with a little help from Moffitt Cancer Center.
Walker was one of 13 high schoolers who received a $2,000 Moffitt Healthy KIDZ Role Model Scholarship this spring.
“It gave me hope for my future and it motivated me,” said Walker about receiving the scholarship. “I thought, I can really do this and I have people behind me supporting me.”
But it was Walker who proved she was a solid support system at a young age. When she was 15, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My family has been affected by cancer a lot,” said Walker. “I have had cousins and an uncle pass away from it, but when my mom was diagnosed with cancer it was a whole different ball game.”
Walker was with her mother every step of the way, from her diagnosis to surgery and radiation at Moffitt. And while she struggled to cope with taking care of a sick parent while juggling high school and extracurricular activities, Walker eventually found a bright light in the journey.
“I always wanted to go into medicine, I just didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted to be,” she said. “Once my mom had her surgery she told me I should practice on her. The doctor told me what she needed to do: what to eat, what medicine to take and how to care of her wounds.”
After caring for her mother, who is now cancer free, Walker says her future path became clear. She wants to become an oncologist.
“I think the experience I had with my mom will help me in the field to connect with patients and understand how their family members are feeling,” said Walker.
Starting with a biology class first semester, Walker is well on her way to achieving her goal to help others through their cancer journey.
Moffitt Healthy KIDZ is a community outreach program for children and adolescents of all ages focusing on cancer prevention, healthy living and positive life choices. The program integrates a focus on nutrition, fitness, sun safety, the dangers of tobacco, the arts and careers in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math.