Elon University sophomore Caroline Redd has known what it means to overcome difficult times since a young age. At 4 years old, Redd was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer of the white blood cells. Redd has had first-hand experience with how a life threatening illness can impact and change lives. Battling the disease for almost three years, Redd reached remission at age 7, and has been cancer- free ever since.
Redd was born and raised in Atlanta and went through chemotherapy treatments at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. While Redd battled cancer for several years, she does feel that a lot of her personal memories and experiences as a sick child are a bit blurry, but it’s the people in her life that were there through it all that she remembers the most.
“I went into remission on July 18 when I was 7 years old,” Redd said. “I’ll never forget it. My family Elon University sophomore Caroline Redd has known what it means to overcome difficult times since a young age. At 4 years old, Redd was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer of the white blood cells. Redd has had first-hand experience with how a life threatening illness can impact and change lives. Battling the disease for almost three years, Redd reached remission at age 7, and has been cancer- free ever since."
Being diagnosed with cancer at a young age has had lasting effects that reached far beyond her days in treatment.
“Cancer really affected my family and has impacted the way that we are empathetic for other people and passionate about understanding where others are coming from”, Redd said. “You never know what they are going through”
Growing up, Redd had a brother that was three years older than her. He took his life at age 14.
“He went through life feeling very neglected and when he was 14 years old he killed himself. That’s impacted me a huge amount,” Redd said.
Her brother’s death impacted her family’s life and as a cancer survivor and college student, she has dedicated herself to helping others and being a support for people who are currently fighting for their lives.
Today, Redd aspires to stand in solidarity with those who are currently battling the disease. Last Saturday, Redd participated in the annual “Brave the Shave” event at Natty Greene’s Brewhouse in Greensboro. The event, hosted by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, aims to support children and teenagers who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments as well as fundraise for the organization.
“Pediatric cancer is something that pretty much everyone agrees on the fact that it sucks,” Redd said. “Nobody wants to see a kid struggle or go through terrible times. I just think that St. Baldrick’s is a great event to show support. It means a lot to people who are going through treatment.”
St. Baldrick’s raised almost $40 million last year for childhood cancer research grants. Due to St. Baldrick’s Irish base, the celebrations are typically held around St. Patrick’s Day every year. St. Baldrick’s not only hosted the event in Greensboro but in Irish pubs all over the country to celebrate the lives of current fighters, survivors and lost loved ones.
Redd explained that while the event is a celebration of life, it is also a time to show support for the people who are still fighting.
“I’m really doing it to stand with people who have cancer, especially people who are battling childhood cancer in their teen years,” Redd said. “It’s just so much harder to go through that. Losing your hair feels like losing a part of yourself when you don’t get to choose it.”
Both of Redd’s parents traveled from Georgia to attend the event on Saturday. Redd’s mother, Tina, was overcome with memories of Caroline during her battle with cancer.
“I think when you hear that your child has cancer it’s like an out-of-body experience,” Tina said. “You’re thinking ‘Is this a dream or is this not?’ Kind of going through today has brought me back to a lot of memories.”
With her passion and dedication to the St. Baldrick’s foundation and personal support for pediatric cancer victims and survivors, Redd was a top fundraiser for the event, raising more than $2,000 dollars in donations this year, helping the organization surpass their goal and raise more than $23,000. As she has gotten older, Redd has had more time to reflect on her experience as a sick child, making her battle with cancer more impactful as she grows.
“Looking at things that may be terrible you have to see that there are positive things that can come out of negative situations and that’s the only way you’re going to be able to get through something so terrible. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Another influence in Redd’s decision to shave her head has been her experience with Camp Sunshine, a camp in Georgia for kids with cancer. Camp Sunshine locations can be found in every part of the United States, and serve as a retreat for children and their families with life-threatening illnesses.
“I met a bunch of people there who went through what I had to go through and every year they have a memorial for all the people who died that year. It’s always ten to twenty names and that impacted me a lot,” Redd said. “My story, I was very young, it’s kind of blurry sometimes. Like, I remember some things but I don’t remember a lot of things. It’s seeing people now who are a bit older and seeing them go through such a terrible thing at an age when it’s harder to be resilient has really impacted me.”
Redd’s dedication to helping children with childhood cancer is stemmed from her empathy toward older children and teenagers, who feel like they have lost a part of themselves when they lose their hair to chemotherapy treatments.
“It’s a completely different experience going through it when you’re five. When you’re a girl and you’re bald and you have to deal with all of that and you don’t feel pretty — it’s hard. That’s why I chose to shave my head,” Redd said.
Today and beyond
Redd is majoring in strategic communications, with minors in human services and policy studies. She is a member of Elon University’s Dance Team, which performs at Elon athletic events and other dance competitions. Redd is also a member of a Bible study and gospel choir on campus.
While Redd is still unsure where she would like to pursue a career after college, she does know that she wants to continue dedicating her life to helping others. Heading into freshman year, Redd was passionate about pursuing a career with Camp Sunshine, which is still a possibility, but is also considering working with nonprofits and wants to involve herself with serving people in need.
“Seeing all the people that have been there for my family and there for me throughout the whole thing has really made me, I think, more empathetic for other people and understanding and generous. People have been there for me and I should do the same,” Redd said.
Redd feels like Elon’s campus has been a great place to help her get more involved with her personal interests and learn about people with different passions.
“It’s great to see that a lot of people are curious about the world and interested in other peoples’ perspective, as well as being very involved,” Redd said. “I’ve really felt that at Elon. Being on a campus where I feel like I can share my story or understand someone else better is a great feeling.”