Beyond the battle

Senior Magnus Vierck’s journey after childhood cancer

Senior Magnus Vierck and his girlfriend Hannah Pallos use plastic bottles to make bottle rockets.

Camp Rainbow

Senior Magnus Vierck helps make a bottle rocket at Camp Rainbow for a cancer charity, standing with his girlfriend Hannah Pallos. Vierck returned to the charity nearly 10 years later and participated in activities with other kids who had or currently have cancer. “Our hobbies are very personalized,” Vierck said. “But one thing we all had in common was going to Camp Rainbow and surviving cancer.”

For a 17-year-old, senior Magnus Vierck has been through a lifetime’s worth of medical challenges. Almost 10 years after his cancer diagnosis, Vierck continues to face physical and emotional difficulties from the experience. Yet despite every bad situation he has gone through, he has learned to find the bright side of his story. 

Vierck was first diagnosed with synovial sarcoma at eight years old. The initial surgery he received to cut out the tumors was believed to be successful.  

“The cancer started to pop back up [when I was 10]. I had surgery [and] then radiation therapy, where they sent radiated beams into my chest,” Vierck said. 

Consequently, Vierck’s elementary years were impacted by the diagnosis. He missed school, and cancer’s toll on him and his body as a young boy affected his development. 

“[Cancer took] many years [from me]. It impacted my social life to quite an extent. I would be weak and tired from all the impacts of treatment, disrupting my development of different life skills,” Vierck said. 

Vierck participated in different programs created to support children dealing with cancer. During the summer, he attended a charity program called Camp Rainbow, where he met his current girlfriend, senior Hannah Pallos from Festus High School. 

“We were on a bus for a trip sponsored by charities. When people [socialized] on the bus, we didn’t know what to talk about. Our hobbies are very personalized. To get to know each other, we talked about our cancers, which we had in common. We all had our development impacted by childhood cancer, and [socializing] was a common problem for childhood cancer survivors, [so] it’s just how we bonded. It was the first interaction between me and [Pallos],” Vierck said. 

A group of Camp Rainbow attendees stand together outside, wearing colorful t-shirts and bandanas.
Senior Magnus Vierck (back right) stands beside his girlfriend, senior Hannah Pallos, for a group picture. Vierck returned to Camp Rainbow for a cancer charity in 2022, along with others who had or currently have cancer. “We met at Camp Rainbow [when we were kids]; it’s one of the many programs we’ve been through,” Vierck said. “It was a fun summer camp.” (Camp Rainbow)

The two began dating last year. However, they had kept in contact ever since they met in camp. Communication can be difficult; Vierck tries to drive the 40 minutes to Pallos every weekend, but sometimes life gets in the way. Because of this, the two devised a way to simulate these visits when needed. 

“We both have a virtual reality headset. [We use it as a] way to communicate more personally [across] long distances. Unlike a phone call or Facetime, [the virtual world] makes it feel more real, like we’re [actually] seeing [each other],” Vierck said. “I feel that [this] is a good [alternative] to see my girlfriend when I can’t visit her.”

The effects of Vierck’s childhood cancer linger, and he continues to deal with issues physically and mentally. Physical impacts have included stomach acid problems, memory loss and physical deformities. At one point, plastic surgery was needed to repair the damage cancer caused. Despite this, Vierck believes that his cancer helped shape him into who he is and how he thinks about people. 

“There was this girl around my age [who also had cancer]. [When] we would hang out, I would focus on myself, trying to feel happier about my situation. A week later, she was no longer there. Being 10 years old, I assumed she was just better. A month later, my mother took me to the funeral. I was confused for a long time, and after that experience, all I could remember would be talking about myself and what I liked,” Vierck said. “I regret it so much. If I could [change] what I did, I would focus on making them happy.” 

Vierck’s cancer also impacted his family and friends. While he didn’t necessarily understand the situation then, those close to Vierck became more stressed, impacting their mental health. 

Infographic giving statistics on childhood cancer. In 2023, 9,910 children under 15 will be diagnosed with cancer. 85% will survive over five years. It is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-14. Furthermore, 1 in 285 people develop cancer before the age of 20. 95% of childhood cancer survivors have related health issues by 45. 17,293 kids were diagnosed with cancer in America in 2018.
Six statistics on childhood cancer and its effects. (Liam Woodson)

“I did not understand the concept of fatal diseases. All the medicine they injected into me made me feel lethargic, and

my brain could not comprehend the situation at the time. People around me, like my parents and my friend’s parents, were stressed out,” Vierck said. 

Despite all the trauma and tragedy he’s been through, Vierck has managed to look at the good side of things and find hope in the future. 

“[My ultimate goal is] to have kids, a wife and a stable job in the medical field. While there is an increased chance of cancer again in the future, the experiences that I’ve had have made it all worth it,” Vierck said. “I’m glad to have survived cancer, and I’m making sure to live as fully as possible.”