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(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Certified Nursing Assistant Megan Ruud checks the vital signs of patients at Avalon Care Center Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Ruud is a cancer survivor who earned a scholarship from the American Cancer Society.
Woods Cross cancer survivor wins scholarship to pursue college
Megan Ruud » Her care shifted her career goals to pediatric oncology nursing.
First Published Jul 12 2012 11:35 am • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:31 pm

Halloween 2009 was the scariest day of Megan Ruud’s life.

It wasn’t witches, ghost or goblins that made Megan shake. It was being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 15.

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Megan, now 17 and a recent graduate from Woods Cross High School, triumphed over cancer and was recently one of 20 cancer survivors in Utah awarded a $2,500 scholarship by the American Cancer Society.

Scholarships were awarded based on financial need, leadership, academic achievement and community service. Candidates had a cancer diagnosis before age 21, a GPA of at least 2.5 and been accepted to an accredited school.

"The purpose of the scholarship program is to help both the patient and family overcome the financial burden of cancer. For many, the financial impact from their cancer diagnosis has put the opportunity for higher education out of reach," said Patricia Monsoor, regional communications manager for the Great West Division of the American Cancer Society. "With the opportunity for a cancer survivor college scholarship to help cover the increasing cost of tuition and related expenses, pediatric and adolescent cancer survivors are encouraged to fulfill their dreams and realize their full potential."

Before the cancer diagnosis, Megan had planned to major in interior design.

"I wanted absolutely nothing to do with the medical field," Megan said.

After the diagnosis, though, Megan is sure she wants to be a Registered Nurse in the field of pediatric oncology. She will attend the University of Utah in the fall.

It was the nurses at Primary Children’s Medical Center that change Megan’s career goals.

"The nurses who helped me with my treatment were so supportive. They were more of a friend than anything else. I want to help make other children’s lives better when they are going through treatment. They were so caring. I could tell they were there because they wanted to be. They were not there for a paycheck, they were there to help people," Megan said.

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Bonnie Blackburn also appreciated the care the nurses gave her daughter.

"She had her favorite nurses," Blackburn said. "They knew when and how to make her laugh. They knew just what to do."

While a patient at Primary Children’s, Megan watched little children and babies going through cancer treatment who kept smiling.

"It made me smile. I wanted to support them and show them I could do it, too" she said.

Cancer has not impacted only Megan’s career choice. It has changed how she views life.

"I don’t take things for granted. I appreciate what I have. I don’t dwell on things, I forgive. I know you need to accept apologies. You need to enjoy the moment," she said.

Megan plans to emulate those nurses who helped her so much during her months of treatment.

During 10th grade, Megan underwent chemotherapy and was too sick to attend school. Instead, she was homeschooled.

She spent 11th and 12th grade making up for the time she missed. Not only did Megan graduate in June with her classmates, she spent her junior and senior year participating in sports and she completed a Certified Nurse Aide course at the Davis Applied Technology College. Megan also volunteered with cancer patients. During her senior year, Megan began working as a Certified Nurse Aide at the Bountiful Care Center in Avalon.

Coworkers at Avalon appreciate Megan’s positive attitude.

"She knows what it is like to be sick and has empathy far beyond her years," said Avalon administrator Noralyn Snow.

Megan’s supervisor Eric Sunkuli said he did not know Megan was a cancer survivor until a visitor at the facility told him she had been in treatment at Primary Children’s with Megan. He is impressed with how responsible the 17 year old is.

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