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It is our honor and privilege to award the Fall 2015 Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Scholarship to Nicholas Hibbeler.

Two years ago, Nicholas was diagnosed with testicular cancer. What stood out about his story was not just that he has managed – through painful surgery and complications – to beat back his cancer, but that he has turned his experience into a strong effort for awareness about the disease. By engaging with others to help him advocate for those at risk of developing testicular cancer, he has shown that he is not only a fighter, but a leader as well.

None of Nicholas’ experiences have been easy. “After my diagnosis,” Nicholas wrote in his winning essay, “I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and had three surgeries, including an Orchiectomy and a Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection, which removed more than two dozen lymph nodes from my abdomen.”

The surgery fixed one problem, but brought on additional complications, including both pneumonia and chylous ascites – a rare, and often deadly, complication that can arise from surgery on lymph nodes. These complications resulted in the loss of ninety pounds of lymphatic fluid from his body over a five-month period.

Fortunately, Nicholas was able to overcome all of these obstacles, in large part with help from those around him. “My family, faith and community were instrumental in sustaining me and helping me conquer my cancer,” Nicholas wrote.

Through his own initiative, Nicholas created the CHECK 2 awareness campaign, which encourages men, 15 to 40 to ask physicians to look for signs of testicular cancer during routine exams. “If I can help someone avoid the experiences I had,” Nicholas explained, “I will be forever thankful.”

Nicholas has used his love of sports to augment his advocacy. He solicited his soccer teammates, parents, friends, and others in the community to help him raise more than $9,000 for the Victory Project, a non-profit foundation dedicated to helping children with cancer. His efforts have inspired others and led to even further awareness through interviews and recognition from organizations such as the Kansas City Sports Commission and the Missouri House of Representatives for “exemplifying a student who promotes positive change in my school and community.”

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Perhaps one of the most touching and inspirational things that Nicholas has done, however, is when he gave up his spot as a finalist in the USA Today Most Inspirational High School Athlete to another young man, Dom Cooks, who suffered from terminal brain cancer. Cooks passed away on the final day of voting for the contest, but Nicholas has taken up his motto, “Tomorrow is not a promise – embrace each day,” writing that it “lives inside of me.”

It’s clear that Nicholas is looking ahead to many great things in his future, and that his experiences have given him a focus and direction on how to help others. “I have discovered through my illness that I can help others in many ways,” Nicholas concluded his essay, “either as a fundraiser, spokesperson, advocate, or mentor, and plan to continue these efforts throughout my life. As I’ve stated here, I have many goals in life, but I’ve learned that the struggles of my illness have given me the strength I will need in the future.”

As winner of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Scholarship, Nicholas will receive $4,000 toward his college expenses. We at the MCA wish Nicholas all the best for both his future and the futures of those whom his own outreach touches. We hope that this scholarship will help him reach his ambitious and uplifting goals.

Scholarship applications for the Spring 2016 semester are being accepted now through December 1, 2015.

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Scholarship was created in honor of Heather Von St. James, a survivor of mesothelioma cancer, and her dedicated husband, Cameron, who enrolled in college after Heather was diagnosed. They know that, no matter the hardship, every little bit of help counts.