canandaigua teenager encourages local communities to give blood this summer

Pictured, from left to right: Debra Dunn, Red Cross; Allie Wagner, Courtney’s 17 year old sister; Alex Wagner, Courtney’s 17 year old sister; Courtney Wagner, Canandaigua Academy Senior; Cara Leyna Noble, Red Cross

The last couple of months have been a whirlwind for 18-year-old Canandaigua Academy Senior Courtney Wagner, who suffers from stage four brain cancer. She was thrust into the spotlight during a social media campaign which helped get her on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. As a special thank you to the entire community for its support, Courtney and her family are sponsoring several American Red Cross “100 Days of Summer. 100 Days of Hope” blood drives this summer. The family says it’s their way of “paying it forward.”

“Cancer has definitely made me a stronger person. I see things in a different view,” said Courtney Wagner, Canandaigua Academy Senior.

Courtney’s battle with stage four brain cancer began three-and-a-half years ago. She was having constant headaches that her family thought were migraines. But, on September 9, 2011, her second day of freshman year, Courtney and her family received the news no one wants to hear. A CT scan revealed a glioblastoma tumor in her brain. Doctors say it was larger than a golf ball and inoperable. Further tests showed Courtney had a second cancerous tumor.

“How could this happen to someone my age, someone so active? I prayed I could beat it,” said Courtney.

The young high school athlete was determined to win her fight with cancer. Courtney endured two intense and delicate brain surgeries in September 2011, followed by six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. Courtney then had a full year of chemotherapy. Amazingly, the inoperable tumor responded to the treatment and shrunk by more than half its original size.

“Courtney is rock solid. She is amazing. We received incredible, top-notch medical care and compassion,” said Jamie Wagner, Courtney’s mother.

At her young age, Courtney has experienced hardships that some adults will never witness in their lifetime. In the fall of 2013, an MRI detected small tumors in her spine. The brave teen underwent a third surgery and doctors successfully removed one of the tumors. A brain scan on April 1, 2015 revealed Courtney has new tumors in both her brain and spine, but “giving up” is not part of Courtney’s vocabulary.

“I really hate losing and I don’t do second place,” said Courtney. “I told the doctors to fix me, so I can get back to my life.”

Despite her long and painful cancer journey, Courtney has never lost hope. Her family is now trying to find new treatment options. Courtney’s twin sisters who are 17 years old regularly donate blood and her twin brothers who are in first grade have also been right by her side.

“Cancer comes with blessings. We have learned so much about the community we live in,” said Jamie.

Courtney serves as an inspiration for cancer patients in the Rochester area and all over the country. Although, she has not needed blood or platelet transfusions, her friends in the hospital who have cancer have needed transfusions.

“Just when you think you can’t make it another day, someone comes to help,” said Barry Clark, Courtney’s stepfather.

“It’s been so nice to see all the high schools coming together to help me. It’s simply amazing,” said Courtney.

Locations to give blood

Belhurst Castle
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
4069 West Lake Road, Geneva

Inn on the Lake
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
1:30 – 7 p.m.
770 South Main Street, Canandaigua

Farmington United Methodist Church
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
2-7 p.m.
5925 County Rd. 41, Farmington

American Legion Post 256
Monday, August 17, 2015
1-7 p.m.
454 N. Main Street, Canandaigua


How to donate blood
Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

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