HOLLY, Colo. – A Holly High School student who survived cancer in her senior year is now in the running for goodbye.
Kristen Teferriller walked into high school her freshman year and was determined to become valedictorian. Her drive pushed her past her painful battle with cancer, even when her future seemed murky.
In August 2019, Tefertiller was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a blood cancer that can be fatal if left untreated. She was 17 years old and a junior in high school.
“Frankly, I was very nervous and very scared,” said Tefertiller.
Tefertiller was admitted to children’s hospital in Aurora four hours from home.
“It was very difficult,” said Tefertiller. “There were times when you didn’t know if you would make it there.”
She did her homework from the hospital bed. If she had any questions, she emailed the teachers or a nurse came over to help her.
Four months after being diagnosed with Tefertiller, she received a bone marrow transplant.
“She had to undergo very intensive chemotherapy before her transplant, which makes you feel awful,” said Dr. Robert Casey, a pediatric physiologist at the Children’s Hospital.
“Immediately after the bone marrow transplant, I was nauseous every day. I was in a lot of pain. There was so much stomach pain that I was exhausted, ”said Tefertiller.
Dr. Casey said a cancer diagnosis of this magnitude and treatment will burden the patient physically and mentally and sometimes derail their goals and future.
“The amazing thing about Kristen is that she didn’t let it derail her process,” said Casey.
Casey remembers telling Tefertiller to take it easy.
“It’s going to be really hard for you to be valedictorian from your class given what you have to fight,” Casey said.
Tefertiller’s answer: “I said look at me.”
Family, friends and community members came together for Tefertiller. They sent cards and text messages to keep her spirit and raised more than $ 50,000 to help the family cover medical expenses.
On January 7, 2020, Tefertiller rang the hospital bell to indicate that she was cancer free and was returning to school in her senior year amid a pandemic.
“My immune system was very low. I had to be extra careful, ”said Tefertiller. “I wore masks before they were cool.”
She resumed her schoolwork, doubled her tuition and started summer school.
“I worked my way off,” said Tefertiller.
She closed her last final last Friday. The expectation now increases as she counts down to the days until she finds out if she will be the next valedictorian at Holly High School.
“Even if I don’t understand, at least I know that I trained the hardest, and with everything I’ve been through, I was still determined,” said Tefertiller.
Casey plans to attend Tefertiller’s graduation this weekend.
“I started to cry when I found out he was coming because he means so much to me,” said Tefertiller.
She even named a sheep after Casey and a registered nurse who helped her during her hospital stay.
“You can achieve whatever you want,” said Terfertiller. ‘You can follow your dreams. You can set a goal and achieve it. “