At age 15, her family noticed she was having trouble remembering things and would have severe morning nausea. After a litany of tests and more on the schedule, Shelby was diagnosed with a brain tumor after she lost control of her legs and a CT scan was ordered.
Shelby was transferred to Loma Linda Children’s Hospital and underwent brain surgery despite being told she would likely not walk or talk again. Miraculously, she came out of it chattering away at 1,000 miles-an-hour. With surgery complete, Shelby and her family faced a long stint of chemotherapy and radiation. During her treatment, Shelby would make her first connection with Ronald McDonald House Charities®. Needing her parents close by while she remained in the hospital, they turned to the Loma Linda Ronald McDonald House. Her parents were taking 24-hour shifts and Shelby felt better knowing they were close by in case anything urgent came up. She was also glad to know her parents could sleep comfortably, shower and take a few moments for themselves without having to travel home and back again.
As she was undergoing chemotherapy, Shelby’s doctor recommended she attend a summer session at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times®. Her family signed her up and although the idea of camp was fun, Shelby was terrified something would happen and she’d be stuck in the wilderness without any help. At the end, Shelby called camp the “light at the end of the tunnel;” it gave her friends – she’d lost many after leaving school – and connected her with others who could relate to what she was going through. She had such a great experience that she went back the next year and took her brother Bailey with her for sibling camp. Camp introduced him to other siblings of cancer patients, including a counselor who’d had a similar experience. He was also able to connect with a new network of friends through their shared stories and feelings.
Returning to school for her senior year, Shelby talked to her parents about college. Much of their income had been dedicated to medications and treatments and Shelby would need financial support to make her college dreams a reality. She received an email from camp one day, letting her know about the local scholarship opportunity offered through the RMHC chapter and she decided to apply. After applying and waiting to hear, Shelby was thrilled to get the call that she was chosen as one of 111 SoCal students to receive a scholarship.
Last fall, Shelby attended California State University, San Bernardino where she plans to major in Child Development and hopefully, double major in Social Work. She wants to be a Child Life Specialist, just like the ones who helped her through her treatment and whom she says were (along with the nurses) her best friends during that incredibly tough time.
Shelby says it’s her dream to attend college so she can be that “best friend” for someone else.