Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:59 pm

DSU professor combating Stage 4 cancer, completes chemotherapy


A Dixie State University professor is continuing her battle with Stage 4 breast cancer with the support of those around her.

After  Dannelle Larsen-Rife,  an associate professor of psychology, was diagnosed on Jan. 27, she was determined to find the absolute best treatment because of the love she has for her children.

Larsen-Rife has recently completed chemotherapy after months of combatting Stage 4 breast cancer. Doctors said her PET scan suggested Larsen-Rife had a complete response to chemotherapy.

 As of right now, Stage 4 cancer is incurable. Just because doctors cannot find evidence of cancer does not mean she is “cancer free,” so Larsen-Rife will remain in Stage 4 until there is a cure.

“I will be in treatment for the rest of my life,” LarsenRife said.

She will undergo a new treatment called proton beam radiation.

“A particle accelerator is used for proton beam radiation, and there are only 14 of those in medical use in the country,” Larsen-Rife said. “I feel immense gratitude to my doctors in St. George and out-of-state working together to help me live a long and healthy life.”

Fundraising efforts for her treatment are continuing on a crowdfunding page, which has raised over $4,305. Erica Peterson, a senior psychology from Cedar City, is the leader of the fundraising efforts and is currently selling purple T-shirts with the Days for Dannelle logo on them and bracelets  for $2. Peterson is also running another booth at George Street Fest this semester to raise funds for Larsen-Rife’s medical treatment.

DSU alumna Holli Roper said: “I shaved my head in honor and support of Dannelle because in more ways has she ‘shaved her head for me.’ She carries so much wisdom and enthusiasm, and everything she teaches makes you feel like a part of something bigger.”

 Peterson said Larsen-Rife’s guidance and teaching changes the way Peterson interacts with her own children and husband. She is never afraid to speak up for what she feels is the right thing.

“I have received tremendous support from people all around me,”  Larsen-Rife said. “Many have spent tireless hours raising funds for the treatment, giving me rides to appointments, bringing meals to my home, and taking my children to do fun activities, and helping me when I was at my lowest.”

Larsen-Rife’s  kids recently attended  summer camp for children who have a parent with cancer, and she was glad to hear them say “our story” was the least sad of them all. She said her kids  are optimistic and are doing well with everything.

 In addition to  seeking new treatment, Larsen-Rife will be on sabbatical leave for the 2017-2018 educational year. During her yearlong sabbatical, she will work as a visiting assistant professor at Stanford University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research.

Larsen-Rife will be working on a cutting-edge research project to understand psychological disorders and trauma. The project  is designed to understand the effects of bicycle riding on the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,  through neuroimaging, which focuses on different regions of the brain.

“This will help prepare students for graduate programs and careers in psychology because they will be exposed to cutting-edge research,” Larsen- Rife said. “I also hope to be able to start a dialogue to provide opportunities for DSU students to do internships at Stanford.”

Larsen-Rife’s passion for research has already impacted her students at DSU.

DSU Alumna Dakota Witzel said: “Not only did Larsen-Rife push me to get involved with research but she also pushed me to go graduate school. Her classes were the reason I decided to bridge the gap between psychology and human development.”

 Larsen-Rife said she has made further arrangements to travel back and forth between St. George and Palo Alto, California, periodically because it is important to her not to abandon her students who are preparing for graduate school. The research in the Neuroscience in Relationship Development (NiRD) lab will continue, and she will continue to work with students.

Although she will be going through a series of life changes, Larsen- Rife said she wants to continue leading a normal life.

“I have always lived life to the fullest and will continue to do that, ” Larsen-Rife said. “The things that were important to me before are still important to me now.”