In 2015, Caly Bevier had just gotten back from a family vacation in Orlando when she and her mom realized something was very wrong. Her stomach was bloated, she was vomiting and she just felt awful.
At first glance, the doctor thought the then 15-year-old high school sophomore was pregnant.
“She said the only other thing it could be is a tumor on your ovaries, and I said, ‘That’s what it has to be then,’ ” Bevier tells PEOPLE.
They quickly learned the competitive cheerleader from Bowling Green, Ohio, had a 5-pound tumor and a rare form of Stage 3 ovarian cancer. Caly spent three months in-and-out of the hospital enduring 21 chemo infusions.
Her dad, Adam Bevier, a firefighter, tells PEOPLE, “After her treatments we were told that she was in remission. We consider ourselves the lucky ones to be able to say our daughter beat Stage 3 cancer.”
Caly says her fighting spirit helped get her through the toughest times.
“I kept telling myself to just be positive,” she says. “I knew everything would be okay in the end. When you’re going through something so hard you realize how important all the little things in life really are. It has changed me”
Now, in remission for two years, she’s adamant about making people more aware of the signs of ovarian cancer — which can be very difficult to detect.
“I had a lump growing in my stomach for a year and I just ignored it. I didn’t really think anything of it because it wasn’t a problem,” Caly admits.
Her doctor, Dagmar Stein — the Director of Pediatric Hematology Oncology at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital — says, “Caly’s is a very rare form of ovarian cancer. There are some symptoms — pain in the back and abdomen, burning urination and some constipation…but the symptoms are very non-specific and that’s why ovarian cancer is very difficult to pick up. You won’t feel anything until the cancer is large and that’s why it can be so deadly for women.”
Caly had her left ovary and fallopian tube removed, but should still be able to have kids someday. Now, she’s looking forward to what her future has in store.
Two months ago, Caly, now 17, decided to get her GED and move to L.A. to pursue her passion for music and entertaining — career ambitions that began because of her diagnosis.
“I always loved singing. My grandpa would always tell me, ‘You’re gonna be a star one day,’ but I never did anything with it,” she says.
The teen won high school talent shows but didn’t really get much notice until she met a fellow cancer patient in the hospital. The two bonded and she sang a benefit concert for her new friend in his hometown in Ohio — while sporting a bald head from her months of chemo. Her dad recorded her singing Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” and posted it to YouTube.
That landed her on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And that led to competing on America’s Got Talent, where she made it to the semi-final round in 2016.
“It made me realize I wanted to pursue a career in music,” she says of the experience.
In January, she signed on with managers and recently started working with the people who write songs for Katy Perry and Jason Derulo.
She is also continuing to be a voice for people with cancer.
Last month, Caly was a special guest at the Martin Truex Junior Foundation fundraiser, Catwalk for a Cause. The NASCAR driver and his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex started the event to raise money for pediatric cancer eight years ago. Then three years ago, Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and now they raise money for both causes. That’s why it was especially poignant to have Caly perform.
Pollex tells PEOPLE, “She’s unbelievable and it’s cool for me because she’s an ovarian cancer survivor – we were both Stage 3 – but now we’re both survivors and even our hair is about the same length. She’s just amazing.”
Adds Caly: “I want to make people aware of cancer through my music. I tell my story to inspire other people to want to keep fighting and live their life to the fullest.”