When I was ten months old, I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of blood cancer called acute lymphocytic leukemia. My doctor told my parents that I had a 30 to 40% chance of survival, and I was immediately started on adult-level chemotherapy. I wish I could say I faced the disease with courage and determination, but the truth is that I was too young to know what was happening to my body.
At ten months old, you don’t even know what the word “cancer” means. I probably didn’t understand why I was spending so much time in that big building with plain white walls. I’m sure I hated the medicinal tubes they hooked me up to, but it’s not like I had much life experience to compare it to. I probably wasn’t even aware that my life was in danger. My parents have told me a story about the time when a few drops of my chemo spilled onto the floor in my hospital room. Instead of just wiping it up, they called in a HazMat team. Imagine being pumped full of toxic medicine.
When cancer strikes an individual, it affects everyone in that individual’s life. It shakes families to their core, halts careers in progression, and creates enormous financial burdens. Cancer sucks!
Oddly enough, I’ve learned that cancer has a silver lining – it highlights the power within all of us to fight against the odds. The only reason I’m here today is because my doctor and my family fought the odds - day in and day out - for two years and two months. They knew they couldn’t just make the cancer disappear; they had to fight.
I am now 22 years old, and I realize that I am very lucky to be alive. I appreciate every day I’ve been given. At the same time, I’ve spent my entire life wondering why I had cancer if I can barely remember the process, the struggle. It’s not enough for me to simply acknowledge that I survived it and move on. It’s in my nature to find meaning in life’s challenges.
I may have survived cancer, but it has never made an exit from my life. Several of my relatives have suffered through it, many of my friends have been affected by it, and now, my father has it. There is no easy way to deal with the disease, but the pain motivates me to fight back. I am sick of cancer destroying innocent lives, and I am committed to spending my life and career in the middle of this fight.
What Does This Have To Do With You?
According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of getting cancer is currently at 44% for males and 38% for females. There are over 200 types of cancer and many of them strike very healthy individuals. It is almost certain that someone you know will get cancer at some point during your lifetime. This is a scary reality, but it is important to understand. The threat of cancer is very real - but so is our potential to fight back.
I refuse to let cancer continue to be a topic we are scared to discuss. The more we fear cancer, the more power it has over us. Instead of being afraid of cancer, get angry at it and do something in our defense! In this digital age, we can connect and work together like never before. Now is the time to act against this relentless beast.
There are many things you can do to show your support for the movement. Offer a few words of encouragement to a friend going through treatment. Spend time with the brave kids at your local children’s hospital. The American Cancer Society organizes annual Relay For Life events in towns and cities all over the world. If you can, donate to support medical researchers who are well on their way to a cure.
It's Time To Fight
I want to see more survivors in this world. I fight for my dad and for millions of other people who don’t deserve to hear the words “You have cancer.” No one should have to put their life on hold or miss out on a precious future with their family. Fight for your relative, your neighbor, your friend or your teacher. Fight for the stranger you saw walking down the street with a hoodie pulled over his bald head and hurt in his eyes. Fight for your own health.
We can be the generation that puts cancer in the history books. We can change the future. Will you fight with me?
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