the biggest assignment in Evan Todd’s collegiate career: beat
cancer and earn his degree so he could graduate with his friends at
La Salle University. In May, the cancer-free Lancaster native picked
up his diploma at the school’s commencement exercises.
Evan Todd was Driven to Beat Cancer
and Graduate with Friends from La Salle University
main goal was to walk down the aisle with my friends,” says
Todd, who earned a degree in Marketing.
teenager who was active with volunteer efforts and jobs, Todd was
losing weight in the spring of his freshman year. His mother was
concerned, but Todd shrugged it off, saying he was getting thinner
by not eating his mom’s cooking. But when he got really thin,
that’s when she insisted he see a doctor. A biopsy revealed
Hodgkin's Disease, which accounts for less than one percent of all
cases of cancer in this country.
was completely in shock,” said Todd’s mother, Lois DeRosa.
“He was very scared, but after a week he said, ‘I’ll
do whatever I have to do to get to school and get well.’”
of the first things I did when Evan was diagnosed was to go out
and buy a medical dictionary and Lance Armstrong's book on his fight
with cancer which gave us hope, and was a very touching story of
an athlete, a son and his mother,” said Lois DeRosa. “Evan
has a strong will and showed great calm, optimism and strength throughout
his illness. If I had to pick one word to describe him, it would
stopped attending classes that spring, and began chemotherapy treatments
in May, undergoing the process twice a month. His hair fell out,
and he had a few side effects, says his mother. During this time
he worked part-time at a bank. But as the school year approached,
Todd told his parents he was returning to La Salle.
knew it was my decision,” he said. “I respected their
input, but they knew I was going to do what I had to do. My parents
trusted me to make the right decision with my life. They knew that
I felt the cancer was a nuisance and that it was not going to dictate
the rest of my life. I’m stubborn. They knew not to argue
with me. They knew I couldn’t just sit at home. I need to
do a lot of things. I just couldn’t sit in Lancaster feeling
stepfather, Nick DeRosa, said, “He looked at it as something
he had to take care of, something he had to handle. He was pretty
strong throughout the whole process. When he sees a problem, he
knows he has to address it. This was no different.”
returned to LaSalle for three courses (in which he earned all A’s)
that fall semester of 2000, driving back to Lancaster for chemotherapy
in September and October. Then in November, he took 12 radiation
treatments in Philadelphia. But between treatment and studying,
he still volunteered tutoring children. “I was better and
my hair grew back,” he said. “It was the best Christmas
he restarted school, Todd worked to catch up with his class. Luckily,
he lived in a dorm where Brother Gerry Fitzgerald, an accounting
professor, also lived. “I could see how determined he was
to stay with his peers and graduate (on time),” says Fitzgerald.
“He had motivation, and drive, too.”
worked with Todd on scheduling, and worked with other departments
to help him reach his goal. La Salle’s Computer Science Department
allows freshmen to receive credit for a required class if they pass
a comprehensive test on the material. But the test has to be taken
before the student starts at La Salle. At Fitzgerald’s request,
Todd was allowed to take the test, and he passed. That made up three
credits right there.
is one of the major reasons that I was able to graduate,”
says Todd of Brother Fitzgerald. “If it wasn’t for him,
I wouldn’t have known what to do.”
was eager to catch up with his classmates. After taking three courses
his first semester back, Todd took five or six courses each subsequent
semester. He completed two courses this summer, and obtained his
diploma. La Salle’s policy is that a senior within eight credits
of a degree can participate in commencement exercises.
is currently working at E-Z Event, a marketing/event-planning firm
in Philadelphia, started by La Salle graduates. He was an intern
there during his final year at La Salle. He might be starting his
new life, but the experience has changed him and his parents.
family is now very serious about helping others who are facing cancer,”
said Lois DeRosa. “When Evan was diagnosed, we really didn't
have anyone to talk to with similar experiences, and we talked then
of helping others if Evan got through this.”
For the past two years, Lois DeRosa served as an American Cancer
Society Ambassador from Pennsylvania, traveling to Washington D.C.,
for the Celebration on the Hill, an advocacy event where she met
with legislators to discuss cancer issues. She has also volunteered
for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walks and
First Contact Program.
past year she facilitated a support group in Lancaster for Leukemia,
Lymphoma and Blood Cancer Patients and their families for the Life
Enhancement Center. Nick DeRosa, has a band called Rhino, and he
has played free at cancer charity events such as Leukemia &
Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk and for American Cancer
Society's Relay for Life held in Millersville each year.
Whalen and Jon Caroulis