Raising funds to fight cancer
By Claire Bauer, RCHS intern writer; photo courtesy of Lexi Rufenacht
When Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) sophomore Lexi Rufenacht was 5 years old, her grandmother passed away due to ovarian cancer. A few years later, Rufenacht’s maternal grandfather battled stage-four colon cancer. When Rufenacht entered middle school, her mother was diagnosed with melanoma, and recovered only to be re-diagnosed just last year, this time with melanoma cancer in her lymphatic system. On top of that, Rufenacht’s paternal grandfather was diagnosed with bladder cancer around the same time.
“It’s so difficult to see people you love go through something so taxing like that. My grandpa on my mom’s side went through a bunch of treatments, and he’s doing well now, but I remember being young and seeing my mom get upset. That hurt,” Rufenacht said. “With my grandma, I was really close to her, so it was hard. I remember going to hospitals to see her, and then one day, without me there, she passed away. I was so devastated. It was my first true, up-close encounter with cancer. But, it didn’t end up being my last.”
In Rufenacht’s mother’s case, she had to get tumors removed and go through treatments for years.
“I couldn’t be there for my loved ones when I was young. Being able to help prevent the same problem for others in the future makes me feel so good.”
“I remember that was really difficult, worse than before, because she actually lived with me, and it’s even harder to see something like that firsthand,” Rufenacht said. “My mom was finally doing well after years of treatments until she was re-diagnosed in her lymphatic system. They removed that, but after her last battle with cancer, she didn’t want to undergo any more treatments because of how they made her feel,” Rufenacht said.
Rufenacht’s mother has been considered cancer-free for about a year now. Their family hopes it won’t resurface yet again.
“To make it worse, my grandpa was diagnosed with bladder cancer also last year. His diagnosis during COVID-19 and not being able to visit was terrible. He went through chemo, then surgery. That helped until he got an infection, and so he was in and out of the hospital for another few months,” Rufenacht said. “Christmas of last year we were told to prepare to say goodbye, still without visiting him. That’s a hard pill to swallow. But, they eventually found treatments to help him survive, and somehow he made it through it all. Now, he’s practically back to normal. It’s so good to see him finally back up and healing.”
After these numerous experiences with cancer, Rufenacht decided to do something about it. She submitted her resume and application essay to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Student of the Year campaign, an annual seven-week fundraising competition for high school students, and was accepted.
LLS is a charitable organization with a mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, diabetes, melanoma, and more, and to improve the quality of life of those affected. They are the world’s largest blood-cancer-related nonprofit, having raised more than $1.3 billion since the foundation’s inception. They have helped to advance about 85% of blood cancer treatment options approved by the FDA since 2017.
“My fundraising goal is $50,000, with a stretch goal of $55,000. It seems like a pretty hefty goal, but it’s similar to the average last year, and I think I’ll be able to achieve this by hopefully receiving monetary donations, collecting donated auction items, and getting corporate sponsorships,” Rufenacht said.
Rufenacht, and the other students competing nationwide, aren’t alone in their journeys. Candidates have a team made up of friends and family that help them fundraise.
“I have people like my dad, extended family, and friends on my team. It’s been really fun to work with my loved ones. It’s a great opportunity to do something for the community and help society as a whole,” Rufenacht said.
To learn more about Rufenacht’s fundraising page, visit https://events.lls.org/rm/denversoy22/lrufenacht.
“I couldn’t be there for my loved ones when I was young. Being able to help prevent the same problem for others in the future makes me feel so good,” Rufenacht concluded.