Young Heroes

Tori Degen

by Lillie from Quakertown, New Jersey

What I look for in a hero is someone who is courageous and caring. Tori Degen shows both of those traits in the story that I am about to tell you.

Tori Degen (
Tori Degen (

Tori Degen is a two-time cancer survivor, and she loves to tell her story. She thinks that a big smile and a simple “hello” that she had heard for years from someone that she admires made everything seem not so bad. Tori is my hero because she has gone through many hard times and was very courageous about everything. That is why I admire Tori. Up until she turned 13, she had a normal life. Tori had a loving family, supportive friends, and a wonderful place to live. She said, ”I considered my life perfect.” She had a view of the ocean when she woke up, went to school and saw her friends, surfed on the weekends, ran in cross-country, and played in soccer game after soccer game. That seems like a pretty perfect life to me!

When Tori was 14 years old everything changed. A large mass started to grow in her stomach. No doctor in Southern California could figure out what it was. After many tests (MRI’s, blood tests, ultrasounds), the doctors decided it was time for an exploratory surgery. She said that after a 3-hour long operation and an analysis of a tumor that night, she was diagnosed with a rare ovarian cancer. When the doctors removed the rare, 6-pound Certoli Ledig Cell Tumor from Tori, they found out that only adolescent teens had them. She said she was oblivious to everything that was going on around her; she didn’t even know what “chemotherapy” (key-mo-therapy) meant up until then. She didn’t know that her life was going to dramatically change over the next year. Tori said that the summer of 2001 was planned to be spent in Mexico, surfing everyday, and relaxing with her friends. Instead, it was spent at the hospital having round after round of chemo (chemotherapy).

Tori also said that she was a fan and an avid player of soccer. When she was in the hospital and she was very weak from her treatments and couldn’t play soccer, she said that nothing in the world meant more to her. Tori had 85 soccer tapes and when she was in the hospital she brought in the tapes so she could watch them. Tori really credited those tapes for helping her get through the treatment positively.

From some of the stories that I have read about Tori, she said that the most happy and most positive moment of her experience was hearing that she would get to meet Mia Hamm. Tori had watched and studied Mia’s skill. Tori considered herself Mia’s biggest fan and she wished for nothing more than the chance to meet Mia Hamm. She had been to a live game, but never got an autograph or picture with her. In October of 2002, the Make-A-Wish Foundation surprised her and sent her to San Diego to meet Mia Hamm and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Tori Degen (
Tori Degen (

Tori said meeting her idol was the most amazing thing; Mia was funny, caring, nice and friendly. Mia even made a special video of herself doing a sidekick dance for Tori. That day Tori was happy, and I am glad she was because she went through hard things and hard times. That is why Tori is my hero, because she is caring and very courageous. When Tori was ill she wasn’t rude or cranky, she was very considerate of everybody else. Also, even if Tori had been cranky at times, who could blame her? I bet that if you went through what she did, you would probably be cranky too! That is my story about Tori.

Page created on 5/29/2008 3:52:53 PM

Last edited 8/19/2018 6:22:03 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Make- A-Wish Foundation - Official Website for the Make-A-Wish Foundation
Tori Degen - MY HERO Film Festival
Make A Wish - Watch a movie about Tori Degen.