HealthVoices of Hope


Virginia teen stays positive despite cancer diagnosis: 'It’s always a cloudy day if you focus on the clouds'

Posted at 12:34 PM, Sep 28, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. — Wearing a beautiful off-the-shoulder dress, 15-year-old Caroline Dunn proudly walked the runway at a recent fashion show showcasing women and children battling cancer.

More than 500 people, many cancer patients and survivors themselves, cheered Caroline on as she strutted across the stage at the Short Pump Hilton for the 7th annual ‘"Laughter in The Rain" event.

“Modeling is one of those things that every teenager and every little girl looks at and thinks ‘oh my gosh, that would be so cool to do," said Caroline.

But even off the runway, Caroline’s light shines with her bright smile and contagious laugh. Despite everything she’s experienced over the past year, Caroline has remained optimistic and hopeful for her future.

“It’s always a cloudy day if you focus on the clouds,” Caroline said.

In September 2021, Caroline was diagnosed with B-cell high-risk Leukemia. Since that time, she has endured more than 100 different chemotherapy treatments and biopsies. Some treatments, that go into her spine, require her to be under general anesthesia.

While her diagnosis came as a shock, Caroline explained she eventually found peace and was able to see the silver lining in her treatments.

“I wasn’t like I’m too young,” Caroline said. “It was more like why? I was pretty emotional at first, but after that, I just settled into it and said ‘Well, this is it. The most I can do is get through it.’”

Caroline said she tried to focus on the positive by finding healthy ways to cope with her diagnosis and treatment. While the isolation caused by COVID prepared her some, she said the isolation caused by having cancer was much more challenging — so she started painting, writing poetry, and journaling.

“Which sounds silly. Most people don’t think of that as something that actually helps because when you’re in a dark place, people always tell you, have you tried journaling? But in my opinion, it actually was something that really helped me,” Caroline said.

Now, back in school for her sophomore year at Collegiate in Henrico County, Caroline said adjusting has been difficult, especially when talking to people who treat her differently or are unaware of her diagnosis.

“It just feels like I’ve missed so much, and the world was going on without me,” Caroline described.

But, just like she’s always done since she was a little girl, Caroline continues to wear a big smile. Just like she did on Sunday when she joined other women and children on the runway who are walking a similar journey as her.

"Laughter in the Rain," is a night offering encouragement, support, and — most importantly — hope to others who are experiencing the heartaches of cancer.

“My biggest advice is let yourself feel, but don’t let yourself drown in it,” Caroline said. “[God] has shown me how to maintain peace in my life and look for the positive things.”

She knows that there is no mountain that she can’t climb.