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photo of Stephanie Pacheco

Why I Serve

As spirit chair of UofSC's Relay For Life team, Stephanie Pacheco encourages others to work hard in the fight against cancer. Pacheco needs no extra encouragement. Her motivation is her family.

As told to Lauren McCarthy '17

My mom fought for a year until August 2008. I was only in 7th grade when she passed away. After that, I moved from New York to South Carolina to live with my dad and siblings. Then my grandfather was diagnosed with throat cancer, my sister was diagnosed with leukemia, and in my senior year of high school my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Relay For Life became my outlet to help fight the disease that was attacking my family.

Relay For Life is a fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society. I started as a member of Relay when I was in high school and am now the spirit chair of the executive board for UofSC’s College Against Cancer team. We fund raise all year and then hold our main event in April. UofSC’s event this year will be from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Cancer doesn’t sleep, and neither do participants at Relay For Life.

Last year we raised around $150,000, and this year we’ve increased our goal by $25,000. Our school’s event is ranked 13th in the nation in terms of fund raising. We’re proud of that, we’ve worked hard for that, but we’re trying to be better.

As spirit chair my job is to promote the event and get participants excited about it. Last year, one in 15 USC students participated in Relay For Life on campus. This year I’m trying to get more students involved. I’m fortunate to be working with
such a great group of students. Our executive board and our committees, they just go above and beyond. They’re always getting things done and getting them done in a fun way with lots of energy. As spirit chair, it’s something I really appreciate.
It’s nice to have everyone so excited about something that means so much, not only to me, but also to all of them.

Although I’m a senior, I’ll never stop being involved with Relay For Life in some way. Once you’re a caregiver, you’re always a caregiver.

My mom’s misdiagnosis has affected my career choice. I plan on becoming an attorney practicing in the field of health care. I want to fight for the rights of patients. There’s a huge “what if ” factor with my mother’s death. I want to make sure other kids don’t wake up one morning and have their parent’s sinus infection turn into terminal cancer.

Cancer taking hold of my family has shown me that anything can happen to anyone at any time. Savor every moment you have in your life and with the people you love because you never know when all of that could be shaken or taken away.
It sounds cliché, but, honestly, cancer has shown me that you don’t always have to be happy, but you can’t always be sad either. You just have to go with the flow of life and make the most of it while you can.