USI student's victory over cancer spreads the 'Gift of Hope' - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

USI student's victory over cancer spreads the 'Gift of Hope'

A University of Southern Indiana student is grateful to be back in the classroom after her battle with cancer. 

She says she is doing well, all with help from Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.

"They treated me at my worst. Now I get to go back and they get to see me doing well. It's a very special place to me," Clare Scheller said.

She says Riley's became her home soon after she graduated from Mater Dei in 2010. 

That summer, Clare was lifeguarding at Burdette Pool.

"I was literally packing my bags to go to Indiana University. I felt like I had everything figured out. I had this plan of going off to college and moving out of Evansville, just normal things that any high school graduate has," Clare said.

Then one day at work, Clare passed out and everyone thought is was heat exhaustion. She'd been tired for awhile, and when the lethargy lingered, Clare went to the doctor. 

"I thought it was mono, that was my initial thought. So I remember going from thinking I had mono to being told it's possible that you could have Leukemia," Clare said.

That terrifying possibility became a reality at Riley. She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. 

"It was just a complete shock. It came out of nowhere and no one expects to go to the doctor as an 18-year-old, and then a few hours later be told it's cancer," Clare said.

She started chemo immediately. A few months later there was a major complication. Clare's left leg hurt so bad she couldn't walk. 

"My organs started shutting down. I was immediately put in the ICU at Riley and I was put in a medically-induced coma," Clare told 14 News.

With machines keeping their daughter alive, Clare's parents made a gut-wrenching decision, allowing doctors to amputate their daughter's leg at the knee. 

"Losing my leg was harder than having cancer. I knew that cancer was temporary. I knew I was going to beat it with the medicine and treatment they have, but there was no going back after this amputation. You will not have a left leg for the rest of your life. That was hard to look at that," Clare shared.

But the former three-sport athlete never gave up. She still remembers her first major milestone which was being fitted for a prosthetic leg.

"I had a walker. There's a picture and she's holding me up. I have this smile on my face, but I was in so much pain. It was taking every bit of me to stand that day. Now I've come so far," Clare said.

The rehab, the hip replacement, and a year spent in a wheelchair are now things of the past. Clare's been chemo-free for more than a year. 

She's studying at USI, preparing for a semester abroad and a career in public relations, perhaps advocating for cancer research.

"To be healthy again is the best feeling and I will never take that for granted because it's something I did take for granted as a senior in high school. I never once appreciated my health, so it's definitely something now that I will never take for granted," Clare said. 

Clare now helps with USI's Dance Marathon and travels to dance marathon events at other Indiana colleges. They raise money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, including Riley.

"I feel as though it's kind of my mission or my responsibility now to give back to them. You never know when you're going to need Riley. You pray that you won't have to go to Riley, but you're sure thankful it's there when it does happen," Clare said.

If you'd like more information about Riley Hospital for Children or their Gift of Hope campaign that kicked off Tuesday, click here.

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