As a volunteer at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Denali Huff did everything she could to help in the oncology department. Three years later, Huff relied on everyone in the oncology department to help her.
In December of her senior year, the Rockport-Fulton High School student experienced awful stomach pains. At home, lying in her bed wracked in pain, Huff pulled up her shirt and was shocked to see massive lumps protruding from her abdomen. Her mom immediately took her to Driscoll Children’s Hospital where a sonogram revealed two ovarian cysts, including one that was more than 6 ½ inches in diameter. When the cysts were removed, doctors found them to be cancerous. That meant two months of grueling chemotherapy.
Last week, a cancer-free Denali walked the stage at Rockport-Fulton’s football stadium and received her diploma. Now, she’s headed to college thanks in part to the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s Marcia K. Wilcox Scholarship Award. Denali and Van Vleck High School graduate Andrew Laury, who attended Calallen Middle School, each received the scholarship, which is named after a devoted Driscoll Children’s Hospital volunteer and is given to students who are former or current Driscoll oncology patients.
The Driscoll Auxiliary also gives out the Clara Driscoll Spirit Scholarship, which is awarded to some of the hospital’s student volunteers. On Thursday afternoon, Driscoll Auxilians had a reception to honor all the scholarship recipients in the Residents Conference Room at the hospital.
“This scholarship means a lot to me,” Denali said. “I’ve always wanted to go to college, but it’s really expensive. Most of the money my parents saved up for college was spent on medical bills for my hospital stays and cancer treatments. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford college because of this, so when I found out I was being given this scholarship, I felt so honored and relieved at the same time.”
Denali already has been accepted into multiple colleges, but she’s still trying to decide which one will be best for her dance career. Denali started dancing when she was six years old and evolved into an award-winning dancer. She credits dancing into helping her get through those arduous chemotherapy treatments. She started treatments in January and set a goal to be able to compete in the Revelation Dance Competition in April in Kyle. Three weeks after receiving her final chemotherapy treatment, Denali not only competed, she danced well enough to win an award for her solo dance.
“Thinking about dance is what kept me looking forward the whole time,” said Denali, who competed in a wig to mask one of the side effects of chemotherapy. “I had that goal that I was going to compete as soon as I was finished with my treatment. No matter how bad I felt or how rough the treatments got, I kept that goal in my head, and it helped me get going every day.”
With cancer behind her, the 18-year-old is ready to head off to college this fall and see where her love of dance will take her.
“I can’t wait to see what’s next,” Denali said. “As long as I’m dancing, I’ll be happy, and I’ll know that Driscoll helped me get to that point.”
Marcia K. Wilcox Scholarship Recipients
- Denali Huff, Rockport-Fulton High School
- Andrew Laury, Van Vleck High School
Clara Driscoll Spirit Scholarship Recipients
- Anushka Bhowal, Carroll
- Paige Comstock, Ray
- Victoria Gonzales, Tuloso-Midway
- Brittany Kellogg, Tuloso-Midway
- Hannah Perez, Carroll
- Gabrielle Jade L. Redublo, Redublo Academy/Home School
- Anissa M. Trevino, Carroll
- Ruby Trevino, Collegiate HS