"Never underestimate your strength. When life gets you down, look back on everything you have already accomplished. If you can overcome cancer, you can overcome anything you set your mind to." - Faith
If there is one thing in the world you could change, what would it be and how would you do it?
My experiences with cancer led me to ponder many questions. The main question being: “Why haven’t we found a cure yet?” Technological advances seem to be emerging everyday, yet a disease that has plagued mankind for thousands of years remains uncured. Perhaps our motivations have been misguided. While our motivations have historically been driven by fame, glory, or curiosity, perhaps the motivator that will lead us to a cure is fear. Cancer leaves no stone unturned. It does not discriminate and affects everyone. I am a firm believer that a cure will not be found not by an individual’s personal quest for glory or satisfaction of curiosity, but rather through the fear that this terrible disease will take that individual’s loved ones away from them. The way I would achieve this is by planning, participating, and publicizing events that demonstrate how everyone has a tie to cancer, whether direct or indirect. Curing cancer should be a priority to everyone. This year at UCLA’s Relay for Life, I participated in an event called Luminaria in which all participants were given glow sticks. First, the survivors in the audience were asked to crack their glow sticks. They were followed by the caregivers of survivors, people who have lost family to cancer, people who have lost friends to cancer and by the end, everyone’s glow stick had been lit, signifying how cancer has touched the lives of everyone. By increasing this realization within our society, perhaps more people will experience the fear of potentially losing those they love and care about. I believe that this motivator will be one that accounts for major advancements in cancer research and progressions towards the development of a cure.
Where do you see yourself 5 years after graduation?
Five years after college graduation, I hope to have successfully completed an Accelerated Master's in Nursing program in order to obtain my BSN and MSN to start working as a pediatric oncology nurse or be in medical school working to become a pediatric oncologist.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
The world may never know.
What makes you happy?
There are a million things that make me happy. I am grateful for so many things in my life that bring me so much joy every day, but nothing makes me happier than time with my friends and family, a little Disney magic, and a big bowl of mac and cheese.
What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?
Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, August 2011
Describe the process of getting back into life after treatment.
During treatment, I never really let my diagnosis deter me from having a normal year of high school, so I never had a big transition period after treatment. I still went to school and did my homework, but I just wasn’t missing as many days of classes. If anything, I just became more driven to do everything in life to the best of my ability. I spent a lot of time in the gym getting my strength back and was finally able to get my driver’s license. I was able to spend more time with my friends, get back into my extracurricular activities, and traveled a lot with my family. All I could do was move forward!
How has overcoming cancer made you stronger?
Overcoming cancer has left me with the belief that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Though I would never wish it on my worst enemy, having cancer has taught me so many valuable lessons that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life. My diagnosis taught me the importance of having a positive attitude, having courage and strength, the importance of family and friends, and how truly precious life is. These lessons have been gifts to me and have made me see life from a whole new perspective. Facing such adversity at such a young age has made me into an overall stronger person by proving to myself that if I can battle cancer during high school, while graduating at the top of my class and getting into one of the nation’s top universities, I can do anything.
Many people aren’t familiar with the financial, physical, and emotional toll when treatment is over. Describe your process of recovery after treatment spiritually, emotionally, and financially.
Recovery after treatment wasn’t easy. It took a long time to get back to “normal life.” Getting my strength back was the most challenging part, but I recovered very quickly and my health began improving fast. To be honest, I think I became a less spiritual person after my diagnosis in terms of my religion. My experiences with cancer tested my faith every day and with each day I became less inclined to believe that God has a plan for me. Rather, I started to believe that life just falls to chance and that we pave our own paths in live, rather than simply following the one destined for us. Financially, my family also struggled after my treatment. My never-ending medical bills took away a large chunk of what could have been used to fund my college tuition. After choosing a school out of state, paying supplemental tuition has forced me to take out large amounts in student loans each year, which I will most likely be struggling to pay off for a large chunk of my post-graduate life. Over the past year I have been working two jobs on top of my classes, clubs, and volunteer work to help with my financial situation. Cancer has taught me how strong I am and how much I can accomplish within my lifetime. Regardless of the obstacles I have already overcome and those I have yet to face, I will never let these hindrances deter me from accomplishing my life goals and dreams.
What does it mean to have a support community during cancer treatment?
Having a support community during cancer treatment makes a world of a difference. I was lucky enough to have an extremely supportive community and family throughout my treatment, and I couldn’t have gotten through it without them. They always gave me so much encouragement when I needed it most and consistently acted as my rock and support system. I owe a huge amount of gratitude to my parents who helped me get through both the good and bad days and gave me a reason to keep fighting through it all. Without their love and care, along with the incredible amount of support I got from my friends, extended family and community, I would have dreaded waking up every day. I am truly still here today because of them and I am so grateful for the immeasurable amount of love and care I received from each of them.
What does it mean to receive scholarship money to help you achieve your academic goals?
Receiving scholarship money to help achieve my academic goals means everything to me. After treatment, money has been tight, especially when it comes to paying for my college tuition. Without receiving financial aid, I would not be able to pursue a degree at my dream school, UCLA, and without a degree, I would not be able to pursue my dream career working in pediatric oncology.
How has the MHH scholarship helped you?
The MHH scholarship has helped relieve some of the financial strain of paying for my college tuition and living expenses.
Top 3 things you are grateful for since remission.
Top 3 life goals (places you’d like to visit, things you want to do, etc.)
Advice for other young adult cancer survivors.
Never underestimate your strength. When life gets you down, look back on everything you have already accomplished. If you can overcome cancer, you can overcome anything you set your mind to. But most importantly, stay optimistic. Having a positive attitude helped me tremendously throughout my treatment and has continued to carry me through life. It’s easy to see the worst side of things, but having a positive attitude can brighten any day.
Biggest take-away(s) from your cancer experience.
Live each and every day to its fullest. It sounds cliché, but being so sick for so long really changed my entire outlook on life. Anything can happen at any time. Life’s too short, so stay positive, be grateful for your loved ones, smile more, love more, and live more.
Words to live by.
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine
“Start each day with a grateful heart.”
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