Cherish Today: 7 Things I Learned From A Childhood Cancer Survivor

by Hannah Mae
Fox 2000 Picutres

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Many of you may not know a childhood cancer survivor or a child currently battling cancer, but those of us who know these fighters can all agree they have a little bit of magic in them. These little humans can teach even the most experienced adults the true meaning of life.

My friend Paige was one of these childhood cancer ninjas. She was diagnosed with a very aggressive, malignant brain tumor at 8 years old. Immediately, she underwent an extensive 14-hour surgery, followed by 56 weeks of heavy radiation and chemotherapy.

For many months, Paige called the hospital "home," as she retaught herself to do everything, from swallowing to talking, from eating to walking.

Paige is now a 21-year-old motivational speaker, philanthropist and inspiration to all. Without even knowing it, she has taught me seven amazing life lessons we could all benefit from:

1. Live your todays.

Paige has a favorite quote which I absolutely love. It goes, “Cherish your yesterdays, dream your tomorrows, but always live your todays.”

It’s so easy to rush your life, and we’re all guilty of doing it. Everyone always wants to fast-forward to the next day, weekend or party.

But the fact is, our lives aren’t made up of just drunken nights out and time off work. Life is waking up on a Monday morning for work, period. It's about having the ability to get up and go. Life is falling asleep next to your loved one or having that first sip of an amazing latte.

It’s a collection of the little moments, the big moments and the moments in between. So look forward to the future and fondly remember your past. But ALWAYS live your todays.

2. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.

Feeling sorry for yourself changes absolutely nothing and accomplishes even less.

Sometimes, I sit down and start thinking about the stupidest things. I’m not skinny enough, I don’t make enough money and I’m starting to get crow’s feet. These are all problems that mean nothing in the grand scheme of life.

Take action to change your life, or do your best to accept the things you can’t change. You’ll be able to move on and direct your energy to something more productive.

3. Make a difference.

If there’s one thing Paige has taught me since her diagnosis, it’s that someone always has it worse off than you. And those are the people we need to help.

Over the years, Paige has made a name for herself in the charity world. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars toward cancer-related causes, volunteers her time with many organizations and has been awarded several high-profile achievements nationally.

Continually, she shares her story to create hope and inspiration in us all. It doesn’t take a lot of money to give back. It just requires a lot of heart.

Take the time out of your day to volunteer at an animal shelter, work at a soup kitchen or host a fundraiser. Put your volunteering time and efforts into something you’re passionate about. It will enrich everyone’s life.

4. Do what you love and follow your passions.

We all have responsibilities, but life is too short to let something suffocate you. Spend your time and energy doing all the things that you love.

Maybe you can make a career of it, or maybe you can’t. But you still need to follow that feeling.

Find what makes your heart soar, and do that.

5. Accept help.

No one can go on life's journey alone. We all need a helping hand from time to time, and that’s okay.

Take advantage of your networks. Family, friends and even coworkers have the potential to change your perspective and make those gray days seem a little brighter.

The people who love and care about you will be happy you reached out, and you’ll feel a weight lift off your shoulders.

6. Celebrate your birthdays.

Each year, as I creep a bit older, I start getting that achey feeling in the pit of my stomach. While I may not be getting any younger, Paige has made me realize that celebrating any birthday is a blessing.

Several of her fellow childhood cancer fighters and hospital roommates no longer have that privilege. So each year, as the number of candles on your cake increases and your ability to rally after a night out decreases, be grateful.

7. Be yourself.

Society, your peers and maybe even your parents might tell you otherwise, but is it worth living the lie?

Be who you truly are. Surround yourself with like-minded people, and you’ll have life by the balls. You don’t want to look back at your life when you're 50 and think, “I wish I had felt confident enough to be that person.”

You are that person. You were born that person. Don’t apologize for it.

This September, I hope you think about these champion children, even as you go about your day-to-day routine. After all, sometimes the best things come in the smallest packages.