Inspirational professor diagnosed with breast cancer

Dr. Dannelle Larsen-Rife smiles in the sand in this photo overlaid with a pink ribbon for breast cancer, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Erica Peterson, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — Demonstrating several examples of surmounting obstacles, the life story of Dixie State University psychology professor Dr. Dannelle Larsen-Rife has been described as a story of inspiration by her students. Now Larsen-Rife faces another challenge. She was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer that will require expensive out-of-state treatment.
Dr. Dannelle Larsen-Rife, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of Erica Peterson, St. George News

To help with mounting medical expenses and hopefully ease the financial burden as Larsen-Rife and her family face this fight with cancer, many of the students Larsen-Rife has inspired have set up a YouCaring fundraising page.

A story of inspiration

Larsen-Rife had a traumatic childhood, said Erica Peterson, one of Larsen-Rife’s students. The professor grew up in poverty, at times having very little to eat. But Larsen-Rife was determined to get an educationm, Peterson said, and she dedicated herself to studying hard, eventually earning a doctorate in psychology.

As a professor, Larsen-Rife’s story of inspiration through the influence and impact she had on her students for the better.

Peterson said that taking a course from Larsen-Rife completely changed her life, not just academically but as a wife and mother. Before going back to school and before Larsen-Rife’s course, Peterson said her family was going through a rough patch and that she and her husband were considering divorce.

But Larsen-Rife inspired the couple to work through their difficulties, Peterson said, and the two of them are the more grateful for it.

“Her motto is ‘stress kills, relationships heal,'” Peterson said of Larsen-Rife.

Another student, Lyndsey Craig, has a similar story about the positive impact Larsen-Rife had on her education and life.

If not for her, I would not be at DSU and perhaps not at any school,” Craig said. “I’ve gained skill in research and teaching as well as learning how to be compassionate and kind in my everyday life, with her as my role model. I’m not the only person who has benefited from her selfless acts of kindness, but for me, she has inadvertently improved my life more than I could have possibly imagined.”

An aggressive cancer

Larsen-Rife learned of the breast cancer just three weeks ago, Craig said, and the prognosis has continued to get worse. The cancer has progressed from stage 3 to stage 4 and has started to spread to other parts of her body.

A post on the YouCaring fundraising page said a scan on Monday found spots on Larsen-Rife’s liver and the lymph nodes in her neck.

Larsen-Rife will require a specialized surgery that has to be done out of state in order to fight the cancer.

Always for others

From her diagnoses until now, Larsen-Rife’s primary concern has been for others, Peterson said. Larsen-Rife has a husband and three children, and she doesn’t want to leave her children without a mother, Peterson said.

Craig echoed those sentiments.

“She has three children under the age of 13, and they are the light of her life,” Craig said. “It seems she’s more concerned for their well-being than for her own. She wants to prolong her life as much as possible, so she can raise her children.”

Peterson added that even in the face of devastating news, Larsen-Rife has been worried about her students getting the education they deserve and has continued to teach in the classroom whenever possible.

“So many people ask, ‘Why is she at Dixie?'” Craig said. “Because she has exceptional credentials and a brilliant intellect, students don’t think she belongs at Dixie. I was even one of those who asked that question my freshman year. Dannelle responds that she is here because she loves to teach, she loves to help students and the students at Dixie need her support.”

Larsen-Rife’s students are rallying to support her and her family as they face a tough road ahead, and both Peterson and Craig encourage people to donate to the fundraising page but added that if people cannot donate, they would appreciate it if the post was shared.

She’s my role model, my idol, and I really can’t imagine my life without her,” Craig said. “Honestly, this whole thing seems unreal right now.”


Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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1 Comment

  • comments February 16, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    that’s really too bad. hopefully she’ll be able to get a full remission

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