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Tucson cancer survivor lands national scholarship

Destiny Hessel shares her story of resilience and giving back
Posted at 4:19 PM, Dec 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-19 20:30:34-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — An uplifting story about a Tucson native who overcame childhood cancer.

Destiny Hessel, 19, attends the University of Arizona and now she's one step closer to achieving her dream of helping cancer patients -- with the help from a new scholarship program.

Only 12 years old -- that's when Destiny Hessel learned she had bone cancer.

"When I first got diagnosed, I was really confused," she said. "I didn't think I understood what it meant."

In and out of hospitals -- going through all the side effects that included nausea and pain from treatments -- Destiny still managed a normal childhood of going to school with her neighborhood friends. "I didn't want to fall behind -- didn't want to fall behind my peers,' she explained.

Destiny has instead embraced her diagnosis and experience for its role in shaping who she is today.

She's currently a sophomore at the U-A where she's maintained a 4.0 majoring in molecular and cellular biology in hopes of landing a career in lab research into cancer treatment options or to help diagnose patients. "After I got diagnosed I wanted to do something with cancer. I want to give back and help people go through what I went through," she said.

And it's her story of resilience and the financial repercussions from treatment and medication that compelled Destiny to apply for scholarships.

She targeted one close to her heart -- Northwestern Mutual Foundation's new Childhood Cancer Survivor Scholarship Program. And got it. it was -- destiny. "On April 20th, which was actually my remission date, I got a letter in the mail saying I got $5000 for the next school year," she said.

The financial help further fueling her drive to help others overcome incredible odds with a positive outlook on life.

"You really can't judge a book by its cover. If people look at me, I'm just a normal college person on the outside. You never know what someone has gone through throughout the years," she said.

Northwestern Mutual is calling for entries in the 2019 scholarship program.

The application process for both scholarships programs will begin Saturday, December 1, 2018, and will close Tuesday, January 30, 2019, with selection results expected in April 2019. To apply visit:

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Launched in 2012, Northwestern Mutual's Childhood Cancer Program was developed to find better treatments and cures for pediatric cancer while providing family and patient support and aid to survivors who struggle with the late-term effects of treatment. With the help of its employees and financial advisors nationwide, the program has contributed more than $20 million to the cause, funded more than 240,000 hours of research, and leveraged nonprofit partners - including camps and retreats - to help more kids and families live life to the fullest.