Featured in May Edition of Living Lutheran

By Megan Brandsrud

Tanque Verde Lutheran Church, Tucson, Ariz.
Sophomore at Sabino High School, Tucson

I believe God subtly tries to push me to do things. While it’s not a force that controls me, I definitely feel God’s influence.

My mom, Meredith Mitstifer, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was pregnant with me. Given I shared space with cancer, I believe I have to do my part to advocate and help other women be informed about this silent killer.

I first got involved in ovarian cancer awareness work when I was too young to remember (my mom says since I was in utero, but I have no idea what that means). The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) was there for my mom. When she got well, she wanted to give back to them in some way. She used to take me to run/walk events in my stroller and later began sharing our story. For most events, I love to participate in the behind-the-scenes work, even if that means waking up at 4 a.m. to help set up and staying until the end of cleanup.

To me, church is a place where I feel welcome, no matter what. It’s where I can always be myself. I love my congregation and my church family. They push me to do my best and teach me good life tasks and more about my religion.

Some of the opportunities I’ve been part of to raise ovarian cancer awareness are 5K run/walk events in multiple cities. I’ve also participated in Tucson Teal Teas for seven years to raise awareness and support our community. (Teal is the color for ovarian cancer.) Last year, I had the privilege to speak at it. I also spoke at a celebrity Teal Tea in Dallas in 2018.

My public speaking experience kicked off when I spoke at the NOCC national conference in New York City last summer. This seemed to open more doors for me to share our story because I was then invited to Boston to open Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (September) for TESARO pharmaceuticals at their national headquarters.

For the past three years I’ve volunteered and ridden in the Ride for Hope motorcycle ride in Chicago. My confirmation project was also to raise awareness for this deadly disease.

My experience attending the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering was like nothing else. It was fun and one of the most impactful events I’ve ever experienced. Under one ceiling were so many people believing the same thing and trying to spread God’s word and kindness to all. It will be an event I’ll never forget.

People are surprised when they see me, a 16-year-old male high school student, talking about ovaries. My baseball coaches look at me a bit weird when I need off from practice to talk about ovaries. They don’t ask much, and I’m always excused.

A Bible verse that has special meaning for me is Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” It tells others to let your light shine no matter what darkness is overcoming you. I have it written on a dog tag I’ve worn around my neck for three years.

Being named an Ovarian Cancer Hero Award winner by Cure magazine this year was unbelievable and quite shocking. I still can’t believe I won an award for doing what I love—not to mention getting to receive it in Hawaii. Aloha!

I enjoy helping teach Sunday school and assisting with vacation Bible school because when I was younger, I always thought that I wanted to be like my mentors—helping the next generation and having fun with them. When I do volunteer work, I have fun. I get to spend more time with my church family and friends.

I’m a Lutheran and I know God will always love me. The Bible has shown me many lessons for life and has shaped the person I am today.

My favorite Bible story is the one of David and Goliath. It shows that no matter your size or what people think of you, you can accomplish what was thought to be impossible.

I share my faith by helping at church functions, attending worship and participating in my church’s high school youth group. Having faith has helped me though many sad days, such as seeing my Teal friend Elena in hospice shortly before she passed, and losing Teal ladies like Wyvetta and Alice, who were part of my life.

My favorite part of being the manager for my high school’s varsity baseball team is how many friends I have because of it and how much fun I have with my team. I learn many lessons on the field and with my coaches. Everyone should be part of a team.

My public speaking opportunities have let me travel and experience many things I might not have otherwise been able to do and see. It has opened my eyes to how blessed I am. Hopefully speaking out and raising awareness will help save a life.

To me, grace means doing good deeds and doing what is right, even when no one is looking. I don’t believe you should do the right thing to just get a pat on the back, but you should do the right thing just because.

I think young people in the church should get involved. There are many opportunities to help our church family and community. Not to mention, it’s always a good time.

I pray to God not only when something goes wrong or when something great just happened. I find myself praying once or twice a week on a regular basis, no matter my situation.

I like being involved in my congregation because it gives a lot to its youth. They support us, send us on mission experiences and enjoy being part of our lives. My mentor, my friends and my congregational family helped me through many life experiences, so it’s important for me to be involved and give back wherever I can.