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Teen Cancer Patient Spends Dream Day on the Beach with UCSB Marine Scientists

With help from her mom and the Dreams Come True organization, 17-year-old Caroline Roy of Louisiana visits Santa Barbara for a little field training

When Caroline Roy’s cancer came back not long ago, her mom decided it was time to make one of her daughter’s dreams come true.

“I told Mom, ‘Don’t apply.’ She applied,” the shy Baton Rouge, La., 17-year-old said Tuesday while standing on the beach at UCSB’s Campus Point. “I thought the money could go to someone else who was sicker than me.”

Roy was diagnosed at age 11 with recurrent pleomorphic adenomasat, which attacks the parotid gland. Since then, she has had two surgeries and weeks of radiation.

That’s not to say she isn’t enjoying the results of their application to Dreams Come True, an organization that specializes in fulfilling the ardent wishes of youngsters with life-threatening illnesses. On Tuesday, the Roy family had a beach day of the most scientific kind, as scientists at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute did their part to make Roy’s dream of being a marine scientist come true.

While surfers were catching some early afternoon sets and other beachgoers were just soaking up the sun, Roy and her brothers enjoyed some field experience with beach ecologist Dr. Jenny Dugan, who showed them the habitat right at their feet and in the waves.

“It’s remarkable that this young lady chose to pursue her intellectual goals rather than entertainment,” said MSI Director Mark Brzezinski, who also was at the beach.

After being contacted by the dream-granting organization, MSI research biologist Dan Reed was ready to do the rest, hosting a full day of marine science related activities and visits at the university’s different marine labs.

But for Roy, it was entertainment.

“Like a nerd I was sitting in front of the computer, researching where I would want to go,” she told Noozhawk.

Her mother, Karen, said she’s ready to back up her daughter’s enthusiasm for marine biology.

“She’s always been interested in sea life,” she said, adding that Roy has a particular fascination with seahorses. “When they asked her what she wanted to do, there was no hesitation: She wanted to visit the marine biology department at UCSB.”

But this is no ordinary youthful interest in science either — the kind of passion that often flames out as soon as something else bright and shiny comes along. The young lady volunteered at the lab at Louisiana State University, researching the effects of oil dispersants on fish.

The family was also treated to several presentations on MSI’s various research areas, a tour of the campus and lunch with marine scientists.

“You feel like you want to help someone in need who is interested in becoming a marine scientist,” Reed said. “We want to help any way we can, and we can tell her about marine science at UCSB.”

On Wednesday, the family will round out their trip with a complementary whale-watching tour courtesy of Sea Landing and Condor Express.

Roy said she already wants to go to UCSB for school — if, she said, it isn’t too big of an economic burden on her family. But it’s likely that wherever she goes next, there’s an ocean to be studied and see life to examine.

“It’s just so vast and there are so many things unexplored,” she said.

Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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