According to a recent CBS study, over half of all Americans have had a close family member with cancer, and most of those who haven’t have still known someone impacted by the terrible illness. More than a million people are diagnosed with cancer every year in this country alone.
Ever since she was 7 and watching a close family friend pass away from cancer, Mercy Haub has had her heart set on finding the cure for the notorious disease. What she didn’t anticipate was that she would end up battling it herself, in the midst of a global pandemic and her junior year of high school.
Haub’s cancer journey started at the beginning of quarantine, way back in May of 2020. While many people were staying home and avoiding hospitals, she was beginning to frequent them and trying to figure out what it was causing her sudden onslaught of symptoms. Among these were chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain.
After about six months of these symptoms and of seeing all sorts of doctors, from allergists to infectious disease specialists, Haub received a CT scan of her lungs. This is when cancer entered the picture.
The scan revealed swollen lymph nodes, which can be a sign of cancer, and in Haub’s case, they were. Although the diagnosis was scary, Haub describes a strange sort of relief upon finally having an answer.
“I got to a point where once cancer was on the table I almost felt like getting that diagnosis would be better than continuing to feel like I was making up all this pain because I was lazy or wanted attention or didn’t want to have accountability for my schoolwork or something crazy and that realization in and of itself was terrifying as well,” she said.
Once she received the official diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Haub described mostly feeling confused. “I felt like just as much as I had educated myself on the ways of cancer, I was clueless as to what this diagnosis meant to me,” she said.
Haub’s diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma meant a few things. First was that she had a very good chance of recovery. This type of cancer has a five year survival rate of 87 percent, which as Haub said is “immensely optimistic relative to most other cancers.” Hodgkin’s Lymphoma impacts the lymphatic system, including the spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow.
Another thing this diagnosis meant was that Haub would begin chemotherapy to try to destroy the cancer. The chemotherapy, which Haub recently completed, consisted of eight rounds that occured every two weeks. Although the process was mentally and physically draining, it was successful, and Haub is now in remission. This means the signs and symptoms of cancer have completely disappeared from her body.
A definite challenge for Haub was continuing with her classes while in chemo. She mentioned that the current way of online schooling made it easier for her to stay on top of things.
“Without the flexibility, online format, ability to rest while participating in class, and three-classes schedule, I don’t think I would have been able to do school almost at all this year,” Haub said.
Although Haub had to make some changes in order to balance school and chemo, such as dropping her calculus class and stepping down from her leadership role in the thespian troupe, she has all in all been able to have a successful academic year.
“Overall, I have a lot of work to do to stay caught up in my classes, but I really am so grateful for how understanding my teachers have been,” Haub said.
Something Haub definitely didn’t expect to come out of her cancer journey was the semi-fame that she’s developed. Her story has been shared around Shoreline, but has also spread much farther to national news stations such as The Today Show and has even been shared internationally.
The main part of Haub’s story that appealed to so many people is the way the community reached out to support her. Though Haub received lots of support throughout her journey, in the form of meal trains, Instagram comments, and Grubhub gift cards, the most notable example of how the town rallied around Haub happened on her last day of chemo.
As Haub and her family made their way to the hospital, they were greeted by hundreds of people lining the streets and cheering her on. The whole thing was a complete surprise to Haub, who said she was just blown away by the whole thing.
“I had started the day off so grumpy, tired, really quiet, but by the time we got on the freeway that day I was blabbing away, filled with energy to take on the horrors of the day… It was crazy, I just kept laughing and waving to everyone, I really couldn’t think very well,” Haub said when recounting the day.
When a video of this event was shared online, it ended up being much more popular than Haub could have anticipated. The video has been shared by sports star Rex Chapman, reporters such as Chris Cuomo, and various news stations. Haub’s story seemed to be just what people needed to see at such a hard time in the world, with hundreds of people commenting that the video made them cry out of joy, or even saying that it restored their faith in humanity.
Haub’s response to this notoriety is that she wants to use it to spread a message of good to the world. “To be completely honest I feel like I have so much to say and I really want to use my ‘five minutes of fame’… to do some good,” she said.
Famous or not, Haub’s main goal is to work on adjusting to life now that she’s done with chemo. “Honestly, right now I’m focusing on school and getting back to where I was physically pre-cancer so I can feel comfortable practicing all my instruments on a rigorous schedule and get back to soccer playing,” Haub said. Even though she’s in remission and therefore done with the bulk of her treatment, Haub will still continue with cardiology follow-ups, physical therapy, and oncology checks.
Although her journey was not an easy one, Haub completed it with astonishing success and bravery.
“She is one of the strongest and most positive people I’ve ever met, so it’s been really inspiring to watch her face her cancer head-on with an insane amount of courage,” said Hayley Trimmer, a friend and classmate of Haub’s.
For Haub, the main part of the experience that she’ll carry with her is the love she received from all the people surrounding her. “The amount of support from everyone, it just kept coming and continued through the entirety of my journey,” she said. “It really was so humbling and overwhelming.”