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Clay High School senior creates compassion for cancer patients

For Alaina Byers’s senior capstone project she is spreading awareness of colon cancer and offering support to those in the midst of battle with the disease.
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 2:56 PM EST
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OREGON, Ohio (WTVG) - 69-year old Linda Legeza of Northwood Is in the midst of a 2 year battle with stage 4 colon cancer. The senior’s biggest ally amid her fight: a senior in high school, her 17-year-old granddaughter, Alaina.

“When they first diagnosed her she wasn’t happy,” said Alaina Byers. “And then she was like no cancer is just a word, I’m going to beat this, I’m going to beat this for my family, and I’m going to beat this for me.”

Alaina Byers says she has been in and out of the hospital with her grandmother throughout the...
Alaina Byers says she has been in and out of the hospital with her grandmother throughout the last two years. Byers says she was not able to visit her as frequently amid the pandemic but wanted to show her compassion for her role model through her education.(Jack Bassett)

Alaina Byers is a Clay High School senior and a member of the Vocational Medical Technology Program. The program is a hands-on class that provides high school students the ins and outs of working in the health care field.

“It’s exciting to know that I can take the skills I learned in this room and take them onto my future,” said Byers.

For the last 15 years Instructor of the Medical Technologies Program at Clay High School Katie...
For the last 15 years Instructor of the Medical Technologies Program at Clay High School Katie Blair has gifted students like Alaina the knowledge and compassion to possibly one day work within the healthcare field.(Jack Bassett)

Alaina says she joined the class to help save lives like her grandma’s. The teen has learned how to perform countless procedures and tasks but she says the most important lesson she’s taken away is how to care for others.

“In the medical field, you have to have the compassion, and the love and the kindness,” Byers.

For Alaina’s senior capstone project in the class, she connected her compassion to her personal experience with colon cancer. Byers has created a public service announcement to spread awareness of the disease. Within the 20 minute long PSA, the Clay High School Eagle speaks with RN and Unit Director for the Adult Inpatient Oncology / Intermediate Floor at Toledo Hospital Tammy Ogle. Ogle shares general facts and insights of cancer, as well as the strain it has on patients and their family members with Alaina. Within the video, Alaina also speaks with her grandmother Linda Legeza. While receiving chemotherapy Legeza shares her experiences with her grandaughter in regards to receiving treatment, staying positive, and looking ahead to a possible cure.

“It was just really good to try and get the awareness out there because I’ve had to watch it with my own family,” said Byers.

Alaina’s efforts don’t stop there. With the support of her classmates and Med Tech teacher Katie Blair, she delivered letters and flowers to every single patient at the Mercy Cancer Center in Perrysburg. Alaina and her peers wrote personal messages of encouragement for the patients and worked with Marla’s Flower Truck in Oregon to hand-select bouquets of flowers.

“I had to hold back myself from crying because I wasn’t expecting the reactions that I got,” said Byers. “There was a lot of emotion in these cancer patients because they didn’t think more people than what they thought cared about them.”

Alaina delivered the flowers to cancer patients at Mercy Cancer Center on Valentine's Day.
Alaina delivered the flowers to cancer patients at Mercy Cancer Center on Valentine's Day.(Jack Bassett)

Upon graduating high school Alaina plans to attend Owens Community College and eventually attend the University of Toledo for med school. The hopeful future doctor knows she can’t cure cancer, at least yet; but she says she can create a reason for someone to smile.

“It’s free to give kindness and love and compassion,” said Byers. “And it’s like the one thing all people can do.”

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