September is National Blood Cancer Awareness month and the 29th of September is the annual Light the Night walk in Dayton. Sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and held at the Fraze pavilion, this event is the epitome of community. Hundreds of people gather together to support patients & survivors, remember those who have lost the battle, and honor the families and friends who never stop fighting. It also raises hundreds of thousands of dollars every year that is used for research & development of new treatments as well as continued patient care.
If you have been anywhere in ear shot of me in the last 5 years, you know that I had cancer. It is one of my favorite things to talk about- not because it gets me attention (well, not entirely), but because it is therapeutic for me. Talking about it so openly has allowed me to face the awful things that come along with fighting and beating and recovering from the cancer. In the last year, though, my 5th year in remission, I realized something: cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me.
The process was long and excruciating, and I wouldn’t wish that pain on anybody. But I do wish more people could see this life through my eyes. I went from an underachieving, lost, young adult to an underachieving, lost, young adult who lives fearlessly, loves deeply, and laughs louder than anyone enjoys listening to. The petty things that once troubled me don’t even appear on my radar anymore. The feelings I was afraid to show to protect myself from being hurt now exude from everything I am. The small things that they say mean everything, do indeed mean everything to me these days. It is liberating to live a life not bound with fear and it has allowed me to feel a kind of happiness that you see on a little kid’s face when the ice cream truck turns onto their street.
In the past, I have described cancer as a tunnel. At the beginning, it is nearly impossible to see the light at the end. Some people, too many people, never make it out. But those of us that do, walk out into the brightest, warmest sunlight we have ever known. The world above is far more beautiful when you have been trapped beneath it for so long.
In my life after cancer, I have learned a few things that define how I live each day:
· Though it is flawed and sometimes disappointing, this world is actually an amazing place. Every single day, beautiful things happen, but so many people miss them because they are hanging their heads. Our time here is too short to let the bad overshadow the good.
· Guilt is consuming- I felt a lot of it because I lived when so many others died. I also felt guilty about being the reason everyone I loved was so sad. But in life, you will make mistakes, hurt people, disappoint yourself and others. Letting the guilt weigh you down makes it so much harder to rise above the pain. The moment I let go of my guilt is the moment I started to find my way back.
· No words are more powerful than the ones that tell others how you feel. Life is defined by the relationships we build and the love that we give. When someone makes your life better, tell them. Tell them why and how much they matter to you. And tell them often.
· Society will try to define us- try to mold us into what is considered “normal”. It will try to influence who we are and what is important to us. Don’t let it. We have an obligation to ourselves and the people who love us to be authentic.
· When I was younger, I used to think being popular mattered. I wanted everyone to like me and I didn’t handle it well when people didn’t. But through this experience I learned that it is not about being loved widely, it is about being loved deeply. And trying everyday to be someone worthy of it.
Cancer is the worst. That is why raising money for the LLS has become a passion for my family and friends. But who I am now, I owe to this disease. My eyes might be the same blue, but the world they see isn’t.
Please consider making a donation to the cause, you have no idea how much of a difference it is making!