Lessons on living

Kevin Clark will graduate this spring with his bachelor's degree in chemistry. Photo by Sam O'Keefe.

Kevin Clark graduated this spring with his bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Photo by Sam O’Keefe.

Kevin Clark has learned a lot of lessons during his four years at Missouri S&T. But the most important lessons, he says, didn’t come out of a textbook, classroom or chemistry lab, nor from one of the many student organizations he’s been involved with at S&T.

They’ve come from his hidden battle with cancer.

Clark was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2011. During winter break, Clark returned to his Blue Springs, Mo., home, feeling wiped out after a busy semester. He saw his physician for a routine checkup. “They noticed my white blood count was low,” he says. Some medical tests followed, and the doctor discovered a cancerous tumor in Clark’s right femur.

“They’d caught it extremely early, so I was relatively optimistic,” says Clark. He has since undergone chemotherapy treatments, which “did slow down the progression” of the cancer but didn’t halt it. He has since started taking an experimental drug, which has reduced the tumor’s size but has not put the cancer into remission.

Just months before Clark’s diagnosis, his grandfather died of bone cancer. Both of these experiences led Clark to spend last summer volunteering for Hospice Advantage, an organization that serves patients in the Kansas City area and elsewhere. He helped assess patient care for the organization and shadowed a physician who made house calls to about 20 patients, some dealing with situations similar to his own.

Now, after 2 1/2 years of living with cancer, Clark is graduating with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. He’s ready to apply the lessons he’s learned from his S&T instructors, his many friends and classmates, and his battle against cancer in the world beyond college. He plans to eventually enroll in medical school to study oncology. But first, he wants to work in the medical technology field for a couple of years while continuing to volunteer with Hospice Advantage.

“I love helping people, and I love making a difference,” Clark says. “As a doctor, I feel like I would be able to do both.”

His passion for helping others led Clark to get involved in many organizations at Missouri S&T. “I wanted to come to a campus where I could really get involved,” he says.

But after being diagnosed with cancer, he’s scaled back some of his extracurricular activities to focus on just a few: LEAD (Learning Enhancement Across Disciplines), Student Council, the campus Toastmasters International club and his fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi.

Before his diagnosis, “I was very involved but I didn’t really have great relationships with people,” Clark says. “I knew a ton of people, but I really didn’t have any close friends.

“Cancer has changed my perspective from just helping others to building relationships with people to truly make an impact with the time I have left.”

That’s just one of the lessons that cancer has taught him. Three others were the subject of a talk he gave as part of the S&T Council of Graduate Students’ Ignite Rolla event last February. They are:

  • “Tell those around you that you love them.”
  • “Never let your reputation control what you do.”
  • “Never stop fighting. Whatever it is that you fight for, then fight for it.”

These are lessons worth learning, Clark believes, regardless of your health.

By Andrew Careaga


  1. Powerful and inspiring! Thank you and best wishes for winning your fight!

  2. Cecilia Elmore says

    Keep fighting Kevin, and congratulations on graduating!!! Thank you for inspiring us!!

  3. Patty Frisbee says

    Thanks for making a difference in the Student Success Center and on campus! Congrats!

  4. Kevin,

    Carry on the good fight and best wishes. My daughter was diagnosed with something very similar at the age of 6 years old and it is a challenging path to have to go down. She is going to be 21 this Fall and heading to MU to specialize in how to help children deal with the trauma’s of cancer. It takes a special kind of spirit to do what you do and to keep doing it. I applaud and commend you for it.

    Congrats on all you have done and will do in life,

  5. I am a two-time cancer survivor. Each time I broke the news to my friends and family they all showered me with hugs and telling me they love me. They always seemed to want more from me. I did not know what else to give. It was not until now I realized how important it is that my friends and family know that I love them as well.They needed support and for someone to tell them it is going to okay, even when it is not going to be okay. . They need comfort, hugs and love as well. They need someone to talk to, someone to cry with. Sometimes those individuals seek strength in those who have cancer.