Student fights cancer and will graduate on time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2013

SALISBURY — Marissa Hosch was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was 15 years old and a freshman at Salisbury High School.
Now, as she prepares to graduate with her class cancer-free, she said she hopes to encourage other young people who are fighting illness and other difficulties.
“That’s my goal after all this,” Hosch said. “I just want to be an inspiration to someone else to not give up.”
Ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in teenage girls and typically causes few symptoms in the early stages. So when she complained of persistent, sharp pains in her side, doctors told her she had irritable bowel syndrome.
One night, an emergency operation to remove her appendix revealed the real problem. A large tumor was rubbing against Hosch’s appendix.
She then underwent a series of surgeries to take out the tumor and one of her ovaries. Thanks to the appendicitis, the cancer was caught before it spread to her lymph nodes or other parts of her body. But when another tumor was found on her remaining ovary, Hosch started chemotherapy. For six weeks at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, she went through three days of treatments followed by a four-day break.
Her initial diagnosis was in April 2010. Now, Hosch has been cancer-free for two and a half years. “To be honest, it’s an ongoing experience with scares and doctor’s appointments,” she said. “But everything’s been good so far.”
Though she missed much of her freshman year, Hosch stayed on track with her classes with the help of former Principal Windsor Eagle.
“Dr. Eagle was like a blessing,” Hosch said. “He helped me a lot. … He was a rock.” She would pick up her missed class material at school and study it at home or in the hospital. She was told she would pass those classes as long as she passed her exams. Failing those tests, though, would mean failing her classes. In the back of her mind, Hosch said, she would always wonder whether she could graduate on time.
Even after her chemotherapy ended, she still missed school occasionally when surgery-related pain flared up. But she kept up, even while working part-time at Chick-fil-A in the past year and contributing to the Salisbury High School yearbook.
After Saturday’s graduation, Hosch plans to attend Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to study phlebotemy, and she has an internship lined up at Presbyterian hospital.
Hosch said she always wanted to work with kids, and her experience in the pediatric cancer ward of the hospital drew her to the medical field. Nurses and other staff members told her that they had fought cancer and have now been in remission for years. She realized she wanted to be there to say, “I did it, and so can you.”
Hosch said the encouragement and support of her parents, friends and teachers truly inspired her and helped her make it this far.
Her mother, Carla Yates, said she’s excited and proud to watch her daughter graduate, calling it an amazing end to a long journey. (Hosch’s father, Christopher Hosch, lives in South Carolina.)
“In all of these years … I’ve only seen her cry twice regarding the cancer itself,” Yates said. “That was the day she found out and the day she lost her hair. Other than that, she had a smile on her face when we went to the hospital and a smile on her face when we came home from chemo.”
She said Hosch’s doctors are now watching a spot on her remaining ovary to make sure it doesn’t grow. If it does, she may need a complete hysterectomy, but everything looks fine so far.
“For someone her age, she’s been through some things that, honestly, I hope most adults don’t go through,” Yates said. “I’m so glad to hear she can be an inspiration to someone else now, because she has been an inspiration to me.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.