The biggest challenge of Anna Taylor’s college experience wasn’t her classes or homework. Instead, it was thyroid cancer.
“I look back and think, ‘How on earth did I get through that?’” Taylor says.
Taylor was diagnosed during spring term of her freshman year at Oregon State.
For a dedicated rower, the news was devastating, especially since she came to Oregon State specifically to compete on the women’s rowing team.
Although her family was across the world in Taupo, New Zealand, Taylor remained undeterred, confident that she could beat cancer and accomplish her academic and athletic goals.
“Rowing is my passion. I didn’t want to give it up,” Taylor says. “I’d rather fight for it every day than not do it.”
It was not an easy battle.
“Trying to do school with the energy that you don’t have—it was extremely difficult,” she says.
Taylor spent 2011 going through treatment, a long and taxing process. After undergoing surgery to remove her thyroid, Taylor’s body was left exhausted, and she had to let her body weaken for radioactive iodine treatment to be more effective.
“It was one step at a time,” Taylor explains. “When you can’t make it through the day, then you break it down to each hour, sometimes each minute. You figure out how to get through that step and then the next. I’ve really learned to be patient with myself.”
Taylor’s parents visited occasionally, and her coaches, teammates and roommates at Oregon State supported her as much as possible.
She was finally able to return to rowing for the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, though she notes that it wasn’t until the winter of her senior year that she finally started to feel significantly better.
Taylor’s perseverance paid off. She will graduate from the College of Public Health and Human Sciences with her degree in Exercise and Sport Science with an option in fitness and nutrition, checking off yet another accomplishment.
Taylor plans to continue training, to “see how far rowing can take me,” but her ultimate goal is to earn a Ph.D.
“I am really so blessed to have this opportunity to go to Oregon State,” she says. “I loved my classes, my professors have been amazing, and rowing here has made my dreams come true.”