The year started off strong – coming out of a life-changing trip; after exploring Blue Lagoon and Dunn’s River out in Jamaica, I was getting ready to start my life after cancer again. I was accepted to radiography school, and then 6 months later, terminated. What an experience that was. You see – you’re always told how to live or what to do, but never told to follow your heart and take risks. Radiography is what cured me and helped doctors find my diagnosis, so I will always appreciate the field, but it just wasn’t for me. I witnessed so many burn-outs; whether patients, staff, or even instructors, that it pushed me to stand up for what I believe in. I made patients believe that where they are in life is a blessing, in their old age, and tried to encourage them to stop their tears. I challenged staff to really put themselves in a patient’s shoes rather than just treating them as another RN number. As for the instructors, there wasn’t really much hope, in my opinion.
So that’s how my year started: me finally ending my cancer story. School was my first interaction with life outside of my family post-cancer. It was the first time I was able to share my ideas with people other than my mom, dad, fiancé. Unfortunately, people didn’t see it that way or understand. They saw it as a cry out for help; a kid that was lost.
While feeling so isolated, I was able to connect with another cancer survivor that told me about Cancer Con. At the time, I wasn’t working and I knew it would be a lot of money to fly me and my fiancé (my caregiver) out to Denver, Colorado. Since I wasn’t feeling a connection with school, I knew I needed to figure out what was missing. I ended up raising $5,000 in 30 days through my writing and sharing my story on social media.
Cancer Con was a game changer. Not so much with the Cancer Con staff, but with the people I met there. I was trying to escape cancer at the time, and on my way home, I couldn’t help but feel unworthy; comparing myself to the other stories I heard at the event. Then, I met Jeremy Ball (may he rest in peace). Jeremy was probably the most empathetic person I have ever encountered. He was in tremendous pain but took the time out to show me that my story mattered. At the time, I didn’t know its significance but he gave me his “cancer hat” and told me that it was a tradition in the community to trade off hats.
Later that year, I gave his hat to another cancer survivor that I met on the First Descents trip in Oregon – the same week I got terminated from school. The same day I got terminated, I went home and applied to this week-long trip for young adults touched by cancer. Everyone around me was wondering what the hell I was doing but in my mind, I knew I needed this more than anything before I ended up as just another statistic of failure.
There is so much more I can tell you guys – from the day I bought my first puppy (after convincing my father after everyone told me I wouldn’t be able to), to my first publication in a magazine, to my trip out to San Francisco for app development for other cancer patients – if I learned one thing and one thing only about 2017, it’s believing doesn’t need seeing. There’s going to be a lot of people that tell you that you can’t and it’s your job to prove to yourself that you can. Let go and be grateful for another year and thank god.