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Cancer Survivor, Incoming Freshman, Aspiring Nurse

Samantha Loos-PolkUniversity of St. Thomas freshman Samantha Loos-Polk is an aspiring nurse who knows firsthand the importance of the medical field.

In her freshman year at Seven Lakes High School in Katy, Texas, Loos-Polk was training for the United States Junior Olympic team for Taekwondo. A second-degree black belt, Loos-Polk had been competing at a national level for two years and gaining notoriety in her sport. Then she was diagnosed with leukemia.

Her diagnosis of leukemia came as a shock. At school, Loos-Polk posted the news on Facebook and her friends took it harder than anticipated.

She spent the next nine months at the Texas Children’s Hospital undergoing chemotherapy and multiple surgeries to treat fusarium, a dangerous fungal infection she developed. To keep the fungal infection from spreading into her brain, she had surgeries on her nose and eyes. She lost some vision in her left eye but wears a corrective lens.

Loos-Polk had the support of her family and friends urging her to push through and endure the pain and uncertainty.

“My dad always told me, ‘One day this is all going to be just a memory,’” Loos-Polk said. “At the time, I was not certain.’”

Training in Taekwondo since she was seven years old, Loos-Polk learned perseverance and self-control, two characteristics that proved her endurance and indomitable spirit when times become tough.

Samantha Loos-Polk“Sometimes people think they have something to prove in life,” said Jim Polk, Samantha’s father. “She has already proved she is a fighter, and in the process has shown she is caring and compassionate as well.”

Loos-Polk returned to school for the second semester of her sophomore year, but was still a year behind. Determined not to be held back, she finished a year and a half of school in a single semester.

The transition back to school was difficult because chemotherapy treatment made her exhausted. Loos-Polk opted out of school accommodations, like elevator use and a lenient testing schedule, to take the more difficult path.

Life has since returned to normal for her. She attended her senior prom, suffered from senioritis, resumed her Taekwondo training, and beginning this fall, she will begin her college career at St. Thomas. Loos-Polk has been admitted into the recently-reinstituted nursing program and said her decision to pursue a career in nursing was heavily influenced by the nurses she met while at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Back then, I looked at the cancer as a curse,” Loos-Polk said. “Now I look at it as a gift. It is part of who I am.”