Malia Talavou, a senior at Long Beach State, believes bad news can be treated as a knockout blow or as a challenge. And Malia is all about the challenge. At age 13, the unexpected death of her father resulted in her mother and three brothers moving in with her grandparents. Their influence throughout her high school years growing up in Bellflower, California was pivotal, as was the decision to send all four children to parochial school – a move her mother believed would keep their faith strong in the face of grief.
While in high school, Malia tore her ACL playing basketball. She rose to the challenge of healing the injury and capped off her senior year as captain of the varsity team. The following season, she tried out for track & field, throwing the shot put, and won the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 3 girls’ title on her first try.
She enrolled at Long Beach State as a walk-on to the track team. But freshman year proved trying: a second ACL injury sidelined her, and she received a devastating double blow of bad news: Her grandfather died of stage IV lung cancer and her mother also had the disease. This led to the discovery that the cancer in her family was genetic. Upon testing, the children learned that all but one of them carried the gene and would have to undergo regular full-body scans to detect any tumors. Malia’s first scan revealed a precancerous tumor on her thyroid; it was successfully removed.
“Nothing was easy, but my support system at home as well as my coach, Corey Loebl have helped me through the many obstacles that I have had to overcome. I thank them for being so patient and constantly believing in me. I have learned that life is never easy, but it is all about how we react to what is thrown at us. Whatever you put into this world, is whatever you will get out of it,” said Malia.
By the time her junior year in college had begun, she was performing well enough athletically and academically to earn a scholarship. In the classroom, she has earned her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and is currently working towards her master’s degree. She is a captain on the track team, the owner of several school records and is a two-time dean’s list scholar.