, Muskogee, OK

Fort Gibson

January 11, 2013

EARNING THEIR STRIPES: Teen uses her time wisely

One in a series on outstanding Fort Gibson students.

Cierra Fields doesn’t have much free time, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

A 13-year-old eighth-grader at Fort Gibson Middle School, Fields is active in 4-H, band, Jingle Dancing, the Relay for Life, and the Cherokee Nation Youth Choir, as well as volunteering for several organizations.

Fields is vibrant, full of energy, and seems to have a hard time sitting still. When she does manage that, she likes to read, but not normal teen fiction. She likes the classics, especially the Bronte sisters. She also enjoys playing her Xbox and drawing anime.

When she was just 4, Fields went to the school nurse for an irritated tick bite. The nurse thought she saw something a bit more serious, and sent her to a specialist to be sure. Upon further investigation, the diagnosis was serious — stage 2B melanoma.

Fields was treated at the Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings hospital in Tahlequah, and the cancer was removed just five days after the diagnosis. A serious problem remained however, a skin condition in which every mole or freckle Fields develops has a 50 percent chance of being malignant.

Fields said she doesn’t really remember too much about the experience.

“I remember having to be under an umbrella any time I was outside and that was weird,” Fields said. “I knew I was different from the other kids. I thought it was normal for people to swim at night.”

Fields’ mother, Terri, said she remembers having to pitch a tent for her daughter at Northeastern State University when Terri received her masters degree.

The experience didn’t dampen Fields’ attitude towards life, or her thirst for knowledge. In the first grade, she got in trouble for calling a fellow student “insipid.”

Now, Fields resorts to lots of sunscreen and long sleeve shirts, even in hot Oklahoma summers.

She hasn’t let that slow her down however, and she stays busy trying to raise awareness for all types of cancer, as well as helping those who have been even more unfortunate than her.

She started young, two years ago, after she won Little Miss Cherokee. The title normally doesn’t come with many responsibilities, but when she walked into the Children’s Hospital in Tulsa, she saw most of the playrooms were closed due to lack of volunteers. Fields said that didn’t sit well with her.

“I decided that watching television all day had to get boring,” she said. “I wanted to make sure they had something else to do. I started going to schools and collecting things: crayons, coloring books, paper, pencils, and notebooks. I didn’t expect much, but in the end we got a bunch of stuff.”

From there, she received an invitation to the then Miss Cherokee’s Relay for Life team. Then she was invited to tour the Cherokee Nation with its Comprehensive Cancer Control team, raising awareness about skin cancer.

Fields said they were having difficulty in reaching youth, but she kept her message simple.

“Don’t fake bake yourself,” she said. “I want other kids to know skin cancer is a real thing that could happen to them.”

Fields recently ran for Junior Miss Cherokee on the platform of skin cancer awareness and was the first runner up in the contest. Then in September of 2012, she received a pretty big surprise. She received the Distinguished Spirit of Life award, which is given to one member of the Cherokee Nation who is a cancer survivor and who makes a large impact on the Nation.

“I was surprised,” she said. “I took a few minutes to sink in, but it’s really cool. I’m young, but I’m making a difference. A lot of kids don’t get that chance.”

As a 4-H member, Fields is currently working with her mother and the National Congress of Indians to hold a Youth Summit. She plans to invite all of the 4-H members from Northeast Oklahoma to attend.

She also plans to run for Junior Miss Cherokee again, and is currently working on a State Record Book.

Fields said she enjoys doing all these activities, and she hopes they all accomplish one ultimate goal.

“I want this to make my college resume look good,” she said. “I want to go to Michigan Tech, which is where my dad went. They have the longest running wolf and moose study there. I want to be a wildlife biologist.”

Fields also raises rabbits in her spare time and is currently learning to speak the Cherokee language in which she one day hopes to become fluent. She does Public Service Announcements for the Cherokee Nation, and is active in the Native People Circle of Hope, a cancer survivor’s support group.

Fields said if she had one piece of advice to give to the youth of today, it would be to go out and do more.

“You may not think you’re changing anything, but you are. Just try. It makes a difference even if all you do is just try.”

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