Idaho Falls High seniors work through challenges

Rexann Ivie, left, and Mason Bailey are both working through medical challenges. An ultrasound in December 2011 revealed a tumor on Rexann’s left kidney. Mason had a severe concussion during football practice last fall, and has since been on a difficult road to recovery.

Editor’s note: This is the second of eight articles previewing soon-to-be graduates from the Post Register’s coverage area.

Idaho Falls High School will graduate 298 students at its 7:30 p.m. commencement June 4 at the Civic Auditorium.

The graduation ceremony is a ticketed event and seating is limited.

Following are profiles of two graduating seniors handpicked by school administrators.

Rexann Ivie

A cancer diagnosis more than two years ago has made life more difficult for Rexann Ivie.

On Dec. 27, 2011, doctors found a tumor on the 18-year-old’s left kidney. Rexann has von Hippel-Lindau — a rare, genetic disease that causes tumors and cysts to form throughout her body. Because of that, she undergoes routine bouts of testing each year, including blood tests, MRIs, ultrasounds and urine tests.

Not long after that December diagnosis, Rexann underwent surgery to freeze the tumor. But it didn’t end there. Doctors later found another tumor on her right kidney and consequently, she had surgery in December. After a recent check-up, doctors found a tumor on her left kidney again. At an appointment in July, doctors will determine whether it’s large enough for surgery.

Despite her medical challenges, Rexann is far from being down. She’s a popular student with a tight-knit circle of friends. She enjoys acting and drama and next year, she’s planning to attend the College of Southern Idaho along with her twin sister, Sonja.

“I just feel like, you can think of yourself as a victim or a survivor — you can always change your mindset,” Rexann said. “If you just think about things in a different way, everything turns out better.”

Both twins plan to pursue the medical field. Sonja wants to become a surgeon.

“I’m going to be the person who treats her cancer,” Sonja said. “That’s what I want to do.”

It wasn’t always easy for Rexann to stay positive. At first, she had anxiety surrounding the diagnosis, she was in pain and depressed.

“I kind of shut everybody out,” Rexann said. “I started failing all my classes, not coming to school and hanging out with the wrong crowd of people. … I missed so much school, I kind of just gave up on everything.”

A few of her teachers helped her through those rough times and spurred her to make a shift in her attitude.

“I just decided to be happy,” Rexann said. “It’s something I have to deal with. … I’ve found humor is a way for me to deal with it. And I have really good friends who understand why I laugh about stuff. Humor is probably the best medicine you can have and just having a (positive) mindset.”

Mason Bailey

A concussion about seven months ago instantly changed Mason Bailey’s life — and he hardly remembers it.

The 18-year-old was taking part in linebacker drills during October football practice. When his helmet collided with the helmet of a much bigger teammate, Mason came up dizzy and struggling, his teammate and friend Deric Deede said.

“I didn’t know where I was, I was just wandering around,” Mason said. “Everyone was like, ‘Where are you walking to?’ and ‘What are you doing?’ I had no clue where I was — it was all just kind of a blur.”

That was Mason’s second hit in the same day. It followed a series of past concussions he sustained while playing hockey, which have made him more susceptible, he said.

Following the concussion, Mason missed nearly two weeks of school to stay home on bed rest. He suffered frequent, intense headaches and was highly sensitive to light. Reading and writing became difficult and working on a computer was just about impossible.

Deric would visit Mason and offer encouragement.

“I’d go over just to make sure he was OK,” Deric said. “I’d tell him, ‘It’s not the end of the world, you’ll get through it.’ Concussions aren’t fun, but if you have someone there willing to help you out, it’s not so bad.

“He also had a great attitude, he was pretty positive and through it all, he was always his normal, goofy self with me.”

Mason’s still working to get better. Staring at a computer screen for too long is difficult, he struggles to remember certain details and reading long texts brings on a headache.

At times, it’s frustrating.

“With projects, I have a really hard time remembering stuff,” he said. “I’ll write down a list and then forget where I put it. So I’ve had to kind of come up with a system — put my wallet in this pocket, my phone in this pocket so I can remember where I put stuff.”

Next year, Mason plans to attend the University of Idaho and study sports medicine. Each day things are getting better, but some things — such as remembering details about the concussion — may never be the same.

“I’m never going to be the same as I was going to be. There’s no going back to that,” he said. “But it’s definitely helped me have appreciation for my body — the body I have now is what I have to work with when I’m older, I can’t just recklessly go do stuff. I’m trying to appreciate what I have now and take care of it.”