Elon Freshman Olivia Pierce was passionate about dance. And at first glance, she may seem like just another Elon student living in Hook residence hall. But a tattoo on her side marks a big difference.

“I noticed a bump on my right tibia,” Pierce says. “And so it made it hard to dance it made it hard to walk around.”

Pierce was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer which destroys local tissue and weakens the bone. According to the American Cancer Society, it affects about 450 children and teens under the age of 20 each year.

Image courtesy of Olivia Pierce

“They said that was a big tumor, and that if I left it for two more weeks, three more weeks, they wouldn’t have been able to do anything," Pierce said.

In recognition of her past, Pierce got a tattoo commemorating the date she had a 13-hour-long surgery— a procedure that would leave her cancer-free.

“I think putting the date on my body is just like showing that this is when I was cancer free, and if you ask me about it, I’m not afraid to say it anymore,” she said.

When other students would ask her about the scar on her leg in the past, Pierce would brush it off as “just surgery,” and would be too embarrassed to say anything. Now that she’s in college, she feels much more comfortable with her story.

Pierce’s biggest support system is her suitemates in Hook residence hall who inspire her every day to keep a positive attitude and to do spontaneous activities.

Freshman Laura Jacobson, Pierce’s roommate, has a friend from home who is a leukemia survivor.

“Maddy is one of my best friend’s back at home, and Olivia is one of my best friend’s here, so that kind of connects,” Jacobson said. “It really shows you that everything comes in full circle.”

In honor of her roommate’s story, Jacobson says she will be participating in Elonthon, a 24-hour dance marathon to raise money for Duke Children’s Hospital.
“There are people within our own community,” Elonthon Executive Director Alaina Schukraft says. “You don’t even know you could have class, you could sit right next to them, and they could have been treated at Duke.”

It’s been almost seven years since Pierce had her surgery, and there hasn’t been a sign of cancer since.