Colin Hayes was engaged in baseball, weight training, and the usual commitments of a high school 10th grader when he discovered a lump on his left rib area.
For months he complained of pain, but this was more ominous.
The lump turned out to be bone cancer, and Hayes, then a student at Boiling Springs High School, was thrust into the emotional and physical pain of fighting cancer.
The dreaded illness set him on a life-changing path.
Over the course of his battle with Ewing’s sarcoma – the surgery to remove three ribs and the long chemotherapy – Hayes immersed himself in learning about the drugs prescribed to treat the cancer and the pain. He read the chemical agents and the body’s reaction to them.
And it aroused an affinity and love for medicine in him.
On Saturday, 10 years after his battle with cancer, Hayes will earn his medical degree from Penn State College of Medicine, the same place where his journey began years ago. Now that he has been cancer free for years, he is about to start his studies to become a pediatric hematologist and oncologist.
“I was very lucky,” said Hayes, now 25. “During my treatment, I stopped concentrating on myself and looked around the room to see what other children were going through. Many things came my way. I feel a duty. to try to give back and support children who were not as lucky as I was. “
Hayes received his bachelor’s degree from Penn State in 2017; he will be one of 150 students to graduate from medical school on Saturday.
Hayes said he was always drawn to math and science, but his brushstroke with cancer cultivated a deep desire to learn more about pediatric oncology.
After graduation, he will attend the University of Michigan Medical School where he will do his 3-year residency in pediatric hematology / oncology.
“I have a quote that I live by, I can’t remember exactly, but it’s like, ‘What we do for ourselves is good for ourselves, but when we die, when we move on, it disappears. What we do for others lasts a long time. It gives others the opportunity to do things for others. It creates a ripple effect and positively impacts other people in the greater community. “
While a student at Penn State, Hayes gave his time to Thon to raise money for the Four Diamonds Foundation, which benefits pediatric cancer research.
Hayes has had a long journey, one not quite as enviable as his character. With all the strife and division coloring the fabric of the country, he looks at things with a unique perspective.
“I think it’s about respecting yourself and respecting each other,” he said.
“It’s about trying not to get caught up in the details, in the small details,” he said. “It’s not that hard to be a decent person. It’s a lot of work to be mean and a lot of work to be hateful. It’s just not that hard to be a decent person. “
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