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WOMAN HERO:
TORI DEGEN
by Jessica from Riley, Kansas

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have cancer? How your life would change? Well, Tori Degen’s life changed dramatically when she was only fourteen years old. The summer of 2001 was planned to be spent in Mexico, surfing everyday, and relaxing with her friends. Instead, it was spent in the hospital having round after round of chemotherapy. Tori Degen is a very strong and courageous woman because she survived cancer twice, helps out in her community, and she is a positive female role model.

Raise in Laguna Beach, Tori Degen considered her life perfect. She had a loving family, supportive friends, and a wonderful place to live. She had a view of the ocean when she woke up, went to school and saw her friends, surfed on the weekends, ran cross-country, and played soccer game after soccer game. Little did Tori know that that would all change when she turned fourteen. A large mass started to grow in her stomach and no doctor in Southern California could seem to figure out what it was. After many tests, it was decided that it was time for an exploratory surgery. After a three hour long operation and an analysis of a tumor, Tori was diagnosed with a rare form of Ovarian Cancer. It was later discovered that only adolescent teens had them.

When Tori was in the hospital she was very weak from her treatments and couldn’t play soccer. She said that nothing in the world meant more to her. She has eighty five soccer tapes that she watched in the hospital and really credits those tapes for helping her get through her treatment positively. In October of 2002, the Make-A-Wish foundation surprised Tori with a visit to San Diego to meet Mia Hamm and the US Women’s National Soccer Team. Tori had watched and studied Mia’s skills, and considered herself Mia’s biggest fan. She wished for nothing more than a chance to meet her idol. Mia was funny, caring, and nice, and she even made a video of herself doing a “sidekick dance” for Tori.

Tori is now a recent college graduate who attributes much of her time to helping out around her community. Tori completed volunteer services and an internship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Orange County before being offered a full time position as Medical Outreach Coordinator– a job in which she worked with doctors, nurses, and social workers to make the wish process run more smoothly. The following year she was a public relations and marketing intern the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. Tori has also been involved with the American Cancer Society, twice served as Marketing Chair for the annual Relay For Life in Laguna Beach, helped plan and carry out several large fundraising events, and served as Public Relations Coordinator for the My Hero Project. Tori also spent two months backpacking through Europe in order to enhance her understanding of other cultures. Her goal is to user her degree and talents in a job where she can promote a well-respected organization whose mission and values she believes in.

To me, Tori is a hero because she is very brave and kept a positive attitude through her whole experience. She is a good role model because she was able to make the best of her time in the hospital and she is now very involved in her community. She was able to get over this obstacle in life positively, and that is why she is strong, inspiring female figure and can be a hero to many.


Written by Jessica from Riley, Kansas
Last changed on: 10/24/2011

MY Hero story on Tori Degen Film Festival 2005

Make a Wish MY HERO film onTori Degen by her classmates from Laguna Beach High School

MY HERO Reporter Tori Degen interviews celebrities at the Billie Awards about their heroes.

Make A Wish

WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms Where Tori works today.

Nomination Letter:

This is Tori Degen’s official nomination for the 2012 annual Hero Awards for the category Strongest Female Role Model.

At the young age of only fourteen years old, Tori Degen was diagnosed with a very rare form of ovarian cancer. During the time that she was ill, she was never rude or ill-tempered towards anybody and she was very considerate of everybody else’s feelings. She was very strong through her whole experience. Tori ended up surviving the cancer twice and is statistically no more likely to get the cancer again than any other member of the population.

Since her experience, Tori has been involved with the American Cancer Society, twice served as the Marketing Chair for the annual Relay For Life in Laguna Beach, interned at ACS’s Orange County regional office where she helped to plan and carry out several large fundraising events, and served as Public Relations Coordinator for the My Hero Project. Tori is currently serving as the Program Assistant for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Tori also spent two months backpacking through Europe in order to enhance her understanding of other cultures. Her goal is to use her degree and talents in a job where she can promote a well-respected organization whose mission and values she believes in.

Tori should be one of the nominees for Strongest Female Role Model because she has survived cancer twice and was strong and courageous through her whole experience, and she has used her experience to help out and make a difference around her community.

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