A very special event took place this past week at Lakeview High School in Cottonwood. On Tuesday, April 11, Jared Stevens, a 17 year old junior and cancer survivor, was surprised with a gift of a 2017 Arctic Cat snowmobile courtesy of the Minnesota Make-A-Wish Foundation. Stevens was pulled into an office at the school while the entire student body lined up in the commons area. The snowmobile was brought to the entrance doors. Stevens had no idea what was going on when he left the office and saw his friends and fellow students waiting for him.

Amid cheers and clapping, Stevens was directed to the school entrance where his new snowmobile was waiting. Overcome with emotion, Stevens was given a new Team Arctic Cat snowmobile jacket, climbed onto the trailer, and fired up the sled as his friends and family cheered him on. Last June, Stevens was diagnosed with brain cancer after a CAT scan showed a large, perfectly heart-shaped tumor in the center of his brain slightly above the brain stem. The first time he really felt something was wrong was after he played in a softball game at Hanley Falls. “I played the best game ever. I went home and went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning, it hit me,” said Stevens. He was tired all the time, suffered from head­aches, severe neck pain and stiffness, and he was soon throwing up constantly. His doctor immediately ordered the CAT scan that discovered the tumor. It was decided that surgery had to be performed quickly.

The surgery took place at the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Stevens underwent a total of six surgeries. Because of the location and size of the tumor, doctors told Stevens there was a good chance he would be unable to walk, as well as a good chance that he would lose his hearing. Fortunately, he defied the odds and is able to walk and hear just fine. Stevens has one long scar along his spine from the top center of his shoulder blades to the base of his skull. He also has a U-shaped scar a little to the upper left of the other scar., Stevens said, “After the first surgery, I woke up and I couldn’t even turn my neck an inch.”

His doctor told him that if he ever wanted to look over his shoulders again he had to turn his head from side to side. “My neck muscles had been pushed to the side for over 7 hours to allow the surgeon to operate on the tumor,” he said. “Trying to move my neck after the surgery was the worst pain I had,” he added. Stevens underwent chemotherapy as well as targeted proton beam radiation therapy at the Mayo Clinic. “It hasn’t been easy. There were some days where I couldn’t even stand up,” he said. Stevens returned to school last fall, and, although he didn’t play football, he is very proud to have been a part of the first Lakeview football team to ever make it into the state tournament.

Lakeview principal Scott Hanson said, “Jared was a great inspiration to the team. He spoke to the team before games and also spoke at pep rallys.” He has also been an inspiration to his fellow students. Stevens said, “I bet that 30 kids have come up to me and asked if I could teach them to be as mentally strong as I am. I tell them you just have to believe in yourself.” Since the surgery, Stevens has had no pain whatsoever. He can no longer participate in sports (baseball was his favorite), but he enjoys outdoor activities such as bow hunting and, of course, snowmobiling.

Stevens is doing well in school this year, and is looking forward to his senior year. His favorite subject is history, and the Civil War and WWII are his favorite historical subjects. At home, he keeps busy by helping his dad out on their family farm. “We’re working on transitioning the farm to grow organic crops,” said Stevens. “We also raise hogs,” he added. “I love farming. I get to run the combine and do planting.”

After graduating from high school, Stevens is considering attending Ridge­water College in Willmar for ag business and ag management. Stevens will always live with the possibility that the cancer may redevelop, even though he has been declared to be cancer free. Be that as it may, he has proved that he is a survivor, and is up to any challenges that life may put in his path. “You can’t take life for granted,” he said. “You just have to take things one day at a time.”