Just a few days before my 25th birthday, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It seemed like a bad dream. "I can’t have cancer," I thought. "I’m 25. My career is just beginning. My life is just beginning."
But, as much as I didn’t want to believe it, I did have cancer. That was the harsh reality.
Once I got past the initial shock and spent many thoughtful hours by myself, I told myself I needed to look at this as a blessing. It would be a hard challenge that would end as a blessing because I would learn from it, grow from it.
It will be 2016 when I get my last round of chemo, but I’ll make it; I’ll overcome this horrible disease. It’s now been eight months since my diagnosis and I have already learned so much about myself and life in general.
What I've learned includes things I never would have at 25 years old, and for that, I’m grateful.
1. I’ve learned that you're in this life on your own.
With or without you, the world will keep spinning; the sun will keep shining, and you have to find the strength to keep going, even when life gives you a not-so-great hand.
2. I’ve learned that you’re nothing without your family and friends.
There is not one thing more important in this life than the relationships you create. Material items mean nothing. It’s the people with whom you surround yourself that are important.
They are the ones who pick you up when you’ve fallen, tell you they love you and give you more hugs, kisses and support than you think you deserve.
3. I’ve learned to take help when you need it and not to let pride get in your way.
People won’t offer to help if they don’t want. So, take it.
4. I’ve learned that I’m a lot stronger than I once realized.
I've learned that keeping a positive attitude in tough times, continuing to smile and believing in yourself is half the battle. Dig deep within yourself and you’ll find the strength.
5. I’ve learned the power of a laugh.
There’s really no better feeling (or therapy, for that matter) than a good belly laugh. Laughter is happiness.
6. I’ve learned that faith matters.
For me, it’s not about going to church and reciting memorized prayers, but truly believing that there is something bigger in this life.
Something that can give you strength when you can’t seem to find it by yourself. So, find what you believe and embrace it.
7. I’ve learned the power of being a good person.
The power of doing little things for others matters; it brings happiness to others and to your own life. Life’s a big circle, and you will only get what you give.
8. I’ve learned that appearances matter more than they should, but that's just a reality of life.
Feeling good about yourself and having confidence helps bring you happiness and a sense of satisfaction.
9. I’ve learned that taking care of your body will help you in ways you never thought possible.
Exercising, even when you feel at your worst will make you feel better and make your body stronger. Eating healthy will rejuvenate your body and keep the machine working properly.
Not smoking will lessen your chances of getting about every disease. And, doing all these things together will help you feel fantastic in the moment, as well as help you in the future.
10. I’ve learned that doctors and nurses are literally angels who walk among us.
They sacrifice their lives and time with their own family and friends to save other people. Next time you meet a doctor or nurse, thank him or her. They deserve it.
11. I’ve learned the power of music.
Music has always been a huge part of my life, but it has helped me in the past eight months more than I thought possible. Music helps you truly feel emotions, whether they’re happy or sad.
A song can help you get out of bed in the morning, make shaving your head a little easier, take you back to a special memory and bring calmness to your day when it feels overwhelming.
12. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how long you go without talking to someone.
If you made a difference in each other's lives, you’ll always have a place in each other's hearts. So, reach out and make that connection again.
13. I’ve learned that people are good.
There are bad people in this world, but there are far more caring, generous and loving individuals. There are people who will go out of their way to make someone else’s day better and bring happiness to someone else’s life other than their own.
You don’t need a cancer diagnosis to learn important lessons about life, but you do need to figure these things out for yourself. As much as you hear or read about life lessons, they really only sink in when you come to the conclusions on your own.
Life is a crazy journey — one that has many ups and downs —, but learning to make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt will make all the difference. I promise.