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Sona Kocinsky, 2024 Reception Speaker

Hi everyone, My name is Sona Kocinsky. I’d like to start by thanking the Susan Fund for this opportunity to speak about what this scholarship means to me. I am incredibly grateful to say this is my fourth time as a scholarship recipient.

As my family and the board members know, I unexpectedly discovered a love for physics in my undergraduate education. One of my favorite concepts to learn was relativity because it takes the most basic preconceived notions and flips them upside down, requiring you to redefine your understanding of fundamental concepts. In a way, I am discovering this is life, delving into new experiences, and learning to redefine your framework in response.

For me, cancer was similarly a jarring change of course that forced, challenged, and inspired me to adapt and grow. It continues to do so. More so than my personal experience, learning from the stories of others in this community has served as a rare and special form of education.

I first met with the Susan Fund just after graduating high school. I was a ball of nerves before my first “Meet the Board,” as I think is warranted for an interview. At the time, I had recently completed treatment, and my hair was beginning to grow back in springy chemo curls. This past May, I met with the board for the fourth time. A lot has changed in this time. My hair is now long and straight – reminiscent of its pre-cancer form. Instead of applying to college, I am applying to medical school. And now, the yearly “Meet the Board” meeting is like a warm reunion of catching up on the past year.

When I was initially diagnosed, a family friend and cancer survivor told me that I had just been granted a lifetime membership to a rare community — one that no one joins willingly, yet it is home to unparalleled compassion and support. Amidst the chaos of treatment, it took time for me to recognize the truth of his sentiment. The Susan Fund embodies this concept as it empowers a beautiful community of people pursuing different dreams, diverse educational paths, and navigating various stages of life. Yet, we are linked by our unique shared experience with cancer.

The Susan Fund Scholarship has been an integral part of my education, providing invaluable support for me to pursue my educational aspirations and my goal of a career in pediatric oncology. The stories of the cancer survivors, patients, and supporters I have encountered along the way, including Susan’s story, are at the heart of my medical career motivations. Susan had bone cancer, like me, and went to high school in my neighboring town, where I used to have soccer games. I may not have had the chance to meet her, but her resilience, commitment to education, and compassion live on in her family, the Susan Fund, and the educational journeys this program supports.

To the board: Ann and Will Lloyd, Susan Baron, Lesley Palange, Kathleen DiGiovanna, Brandon Held, Jeff Booth, Ed Grossman, Diane Karazulas, Matthew Garnett, and Kelly Pollard, thank you for cheering me on through my college endeavors and as I now apply to medical school. And to the survivors, families, and friends in the audience, thank you for being a part of creating this incredible community of unique experiences and perspectives from which I continue to learn.