The power of being there: Taylor’s story
Cancer and quarantine
Taylor Collard, daughter of our Accounting Specialist Robb Collard, is an inspiration to many. Back in August 2018, Taylor was enjoying the last weeks of summer before school started again. She woke up one morning feeling sick and joked with her family that she was so pale that she “looked like a ghost.” She went to the hospital thinking she had the flu. Turns out, it was something much more serious. At just 16 years old, Taylor was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a specific and aggressive form of rapidly progressing blood cancer.
Not only was Taylor going through all the cancer treatment, but she was also forced to quarantine from the time she got diagnosed at 16, all the way up until she was 19 because she was immune compromised and because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Finally, the world was getting a small taste of what it was like to be me but not in a good way.” She added. And it’s true, people could finally begin to understand at least SOME of what Taylor had been going through.
Staying positive was the only option
Taylor truly is a remarkable individual. Through quarantine and all the daily and weekly chemo treatments, spinal taps, biopsies, and all the complications and side effects (and there were A LOT), she somehow managed to stay positive. “A positive attitude towards cancer, how? Because I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
She admits that it’s not easy to stay positive, and that she wouldn’t but with her supportive medical staff, family, and friends nearby, she was able to. She refers to this positive outlook as “positive deviance,” an area of research that focuses on what is going right rather than focusing on what is going wrong. The positive deviance approach tackles challenges in healthcare settings head-on by looking for exceptional professionals and patients (Zanetti & Taylor, 2016). Taylor is one of these exceptional patients because her ability to stay positive through such a challenging situation is recognized as deviant.
“My family and I often said we weren’t going to sit around and be miserable all the time. When I was feeling down, I did what I could to feel better and when I couldn’t physically feel better, I did what I could to emotionally feel better.” Taylor explained. She did what she could to make the bad days better by doing things like learning how to crochet, going swimming, and listening to Taylor Swift (of course). Taylor wants to remind everyone that “It’s okay to have bad days. You need to feel all those feelings, but on bad days you also need to remember that better days are coming.”
Being there for one another
Oftentimes individuals don’t know what to do when someone in their life is going through a painful and traumatic experience and can sometimes overlook the importance of simply being there. When reflecting on her experience, Taylor said “…my friends and family were all helping me because they were there, literally and physically there. Physically present around me contributing to my positive deviance…”.
Although Taylor has beat cancer, the complications continue. She is still suffering from the aftermath of the cancer, and likely will her entire life. “It doesn’t end when you go into remission,” she said. Those in Taylor’s life will need to continue to show her love and support and to truly be there for her as she moves along through the stages of recovery. “To anyone who feels like they can’t help a sick loved one, you CAN, even if in seemingly insignificant ways. Just be there for them.” Taylor emphasized.
Taylor is now a 20-year-old college student at St. Norbert college in De, Pere, WI. She is currently a junior majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Sociology and Peace and Justice. With her personal experience and passion for helping others, Taylor has decided to pursue a career as a child life specialist so that she can help children going through tough times, just as child life specialists helped her in her time of need.
YouTube. (2023, April 19). How positive deviance kept me positively alive | snctalks 2023. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Xp9uasqWpg
Zanetti, C. A., & Taylor, N. (2016). Value co-creation in healthcare through positive deviance. Healthcare, 4(4), 277–281.