“She was quietly outgoing. She would see a new kid in school and have to introduce herself.”
That’s how Lisa Ariano described her daughter, Elena.
“She was just an easy-going kid from the time she was born,” said Lisa.
But life became anything but easy for Elena when she was 23 years old. While attending graduate school at Villanova in 2006, she came home to West Lafayette for Thanksgiving with a lot of pain and discomfort. Elena was diagnosed with endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.
The pain and discomfort continued and a month later, Elena was diagnosed with an aggressive case of ovarian cancer.
“The cancer was not diagnosed until four weeks before she died,” explained Ariano.
It was not easy for Elena’s parents, Lisa and John, to understand why the cancer had taken their daughter at such a young age. Thus began their commitment to give back to cancer research at the hospital that cared for Elena.
More than 10 years later, they have decided to continue their giving journey. They recently established a scholarship in memory of Elena at Purdue.
John served on the College of Science Alumni Board and had experience establishing a scholarship for the board. This spring, he came up with the idea to establish the Elena Ariano Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will give preference to female students from Harrison High School interested in cancer research or health and science related studies.
“It just seemed like the logical thing for us to do,” said John. “Elena really liked this area, she liked her time at Harrison. She actually worked a few summers and some weekends at Purdue in dining and banquet services.”
The Arianos hope this scholarship will not only help current and future students, but also continue to raise awareness about Elena’s story and battle with ovarian cancer.