by Alyssa Leto (Aug 2015)
–Running Her Own Future
of VBF’s 2015 Frank Catalanotto Perseverance Scholarship
term cerebral cavernous hemangioma is not one a 6 year old usually
knows. I learned those three words in kindergarten, and
although it was a cool game to see who could say it right among my
friends, I knew the real meaning behind these big words. As the third
generation of women in my family to be diagnosed with this vascular
anomaly, I have learned quite a bit more than the pronunciation.
first hemorrhage was at age 6. Even as my own journey begins there,
having a genetic form of a hemangioma means that it doesn’t end
there. My family’s story includes many hemorrhages,
several trips to the E.R. and a major brain surgery with a life
changing result for my grandmother. Even though she is no longer with
us, as she passed away from breast cancer shortly before my first
trip to the emergency room, it was her courage and strength that was
there with me that night, and every day since.
almost a good thing that I learned what a Cerebral Cavernous
Hemangioma was at such a young age because it has not held me back in
any way. It has actually defined me for the better. Both in and
out of the classroom, my diagnosis has pushed me to defy what the
average person thinks about someone with a hemangioma. As a student,
I made honor roll student every semester of my high school career.
I have taken many AP classes, and I graduated with a 96.34 GPA.
I was a member of five honor societies.
In addition, I
am equally proud of my accomplishments outside of the classroom.
My running career began in second grade. Despite recently discovering
that I would carry on the almighty hemangioma gene from my mother’s
side of the family, I knew I was destined to be a runner. I found
myself training harder and wanting more as I grew up and continued
running. My hemangioma has not, and certainly will not, stop me
from achieving my many goals. With support from my family,
coaches, friends and teammates, I have pushed myself to become the
person I am today.
Tenacity was my grandmother’s
strongest trait. I find myself thinking of her often, realizing
that our diagnosis may be defining, but it doesn’t always have
to be a bad thing. It’s our job to make the best of it and use
it as inspiration. “Heart and Hustle”--these are
the qualities that made Mr. Catalanotto the great athlete, father and
public figure he is today. They are the same qualities I will
continue to build my future on.
I am excited to be attending
Brown University this upcoming fall and this next chapter of my
life. My intended major is Math with a minor in Sign Language.
I am planning on pursuing a Masters degree to earn a teaching degree.
I look forward to motivating my new team to show their own
heart and hustle, as I will be running both winter and spring track
there. I am also hoping to teach my new friends not only how to
pronounce cerebral cavernous hemangioma, but to show what it’s
really about and how they can help, too.
Thank you to the team
at VBF for presenting me with this scholarship. I am honored to be
chosen and will certainly think of you during my adventures at Brown.