Teen beats cancer, wins international science contest


Colette Benko is 16 years old and a Grade 12 student at St. Mary’s High School in Calgary.

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Her parents are Arron and Janice, her grandparents are Ken and Olive Hutchison of Virden, longtime friends of Morris and I.

When Colette was six years old, she started Irish dancing and took part in many competitions for seven years. Her last competition was in the British Isles. Upon returning home, she was feeling unwell. 

At age 13, she was diagnosed with a synovial sarcoma. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were successful in halting the cancer, but left her with some nerve damage to one of her legs which meant she was unable to continue with dancing.

Upon leaving the hospital Colette asked her discharge oncologist if he would mentor her in a science project she was contemplating.

This past year, the science project Colette chose was about more effective and less harmful treatments than the ones being used today for pediatric cancer therapy. This project was awarded first at the Canadian Science Fair held in Regina.

In September, Colette competed in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Estonia. Colette was one of three to receive a second placing.

A 14-year-old from London, Ontario received a first placing. This is the first time Canada has received two placings in this contest.

While in Europe, the Benko family took the opportunity for touring. After a 10-day trip to Estonia, Colette, although tired, is now working hard to get caught up with missed classes.

She is currently a spokes-kid for childhood cancer and takes part in rowing when she has time. Colette is able to instruct beginners in Irish dancing. 

Her future plans are to attend University and work in cancer research. I have a feeling we will hear about great and wonderful things from this young scientist in the future.

© Virden Empire-Advance