I started writing my cancerversary emails to celebrate the day I was diagnosed with leukemia. It is my way to celebrate life. It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind and I wanted to take this day to remind people that life is precious, to love life and to live life to the fullest. Each year’s email is a little different. I never plan what I am going to write, and often the words just come to me the night before or the morning of.
January 25, 2023
Today marks my 29th cancerversary. The day I was officially told I had cancer. January 25, 1994, I woke up in a hospital room with my mom by my side. We were told I would need more tests and would have a bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap later that morning. I was nervous but was told I would be under general anesthesia so that made me feel better.
After the tests were done, we waited. Later that day my dad came to the hospital and the doctor came to tell us the words no one wanted to hear, “You have cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia to be more specific.” I had cancer and my bone marrow was 99% leukemia cells. I wasn’t scared I had cancer; I was relieved. Someone could finally tell me why my back hurt so much, why I couldn’t straighten my back yesterday and that with treatment my pain would go away, and I wouldn’t live in a constant state of pain as I had for the past two months.
As much as my life changed that day, my mom’s life changed more. She went from being a music teacher to being thrown into the world of nursing and nursing is where she would stay for the next 6 months. The first 24 hours, we were bombarded with information. I had one role and that was to survive, her role was to learn new concepts to help keep me alive once I went home. She quickly became overwhelmed with all the new information: bone marrow biopsies, spinal taps, ANC, chemotherapy, broviac, central line, remission, blood counts, and the names of all my nurses and doctors.
As much as my mom hated being a nurse and struggled to understand this new life, she did her best. But the one thing she WAS good at was keeping my spirits up. Keeping me focused on the positive and helping me see how even in a hospital room, God was by my side. From the beginning, I focused on what God could do. With my mom’s help, I found something good every day. I learned to make lemonade out of lemons and have carried that philosophy with me throughout my life. I would never have gotten through my treatment had it not been for my mom. She was my mom, my rock, my nurse and my best friend and I will forever cherish those six months we spent together every day, all because I had cancer.
You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to life’s events. May your faith always be stronger than your fear. Today, look for the ways God is present in your life, look for the good, and be the good. Go out and do something that makes someone else smile.
Thank you for celebrating today with me. I truly love sharing this day with you. Live Life, Love Life, Cherish Every Moment. 29-year Leukemia Survivor
January 25, 2022
Twenty-eight years ago, I woke up in an unfamiliar space; thankfully, my stuffed dog Katie was next to me, and my mom was sleeping on the flip-out bed at the bottom of my bed. I looked around and saw a tv, a closet, a raccoon painted on the wall, and a window next to my bed. It was a shared room, but thankfully I didn’t have a roommate. Shortly after I woke up, I met Larry, the Phlebotomist, when he needed to take my blood. Over the next two weeks, I learned to love Larry and look forward to his daily blood-taking visits. He always came to my room with a hot washcloth. He knew that by wrapping my hand in it, my circulation would increase, and he would have an easier time getting blood, which would be less painful for me. Later that day, I was taken to the procedure room for a bone marrow biopsy. From there, we waited.
While we waited, I met my nurses, who gave me pain meds and blood products. I’m not sure how much time went by, but eventually, the doctor came in to inform us that I had Leukemia. I officially had cancer. While most people would feel a sense of dread at this point, I felt a sense of relief. I finally had proof that the back pain I had been experiencing for the past two months was real. I thought to myself if the cancer caused the pain, that meant cancer treatment would cause the pain to go away, and I wouldn’t have to live with the pain forever.
I was raised with a strong faith and belief that God would always provide and take care of me. This was no different. I trusted God would take care of me now. I had just read a story about a girl who survived leukemia in English class, so why wouldn’t I survive? Dying never even crossed my mind. What did cross my mind was that in the story, the girl lost her hair, so I asked my doctor if I would lose mine too. He said, “yes,” and I smiled. I hated my hair, so losing it was something to look forward to. I then thought about how I was going to miss school and homework. I was supposed to be working on a science fair project but was behind; I hadn’t felt like working on it. A cancer diagnosis would definitely excuse me from completing it.
From the very beginning, I saw the positives of my diagnosis. I believe this paved the way for me to look for and find the positives every day for the rest of my treatment and even more so for the rest of my life.
Today, I want to remind you that you always have a choice in how you look at things. Choose to look for the beauty in the world, look for the hope, look for the good, and I promise you that you will find it. Live Life, Love Life, Cherish Every Moment. 28-year Leukemia Survivor
January 25, 2021
Today is my 27th cancerversary! I was thirteen years old when I heard words, “You have cancer.” Twenty years ago, I sent my first cancerversary email to thank God and to share my good news:
“January 25, 2001
I just wanted to share the good news with everyone . . . I am alive to celebrate my 7th anniversary of going to the ER and then to Children’s Hospital to be diagnosed. In 1994, because of my intense back pain, I was rushed to the ER, to later find out I had 99+ leukemia cells in my bone marrow. Thanks to my doctors, I am here today to share my story. This is my biggest accomplishment in life, and I am so happy that I am doing well. I know some of you didn’t know me back when I was sick, but I thank you now for accepting me for who I am . . . leukemia and all. All the memories from that first hospital stay are so vivid in my memory. It’s amazing that it’s been so long. I have met many wonderful people through camp and cancer lists. I know what I went through has made me who I am today. I thank God for being here to celebrate. I know my battle with cancer was a tough fight, and some don’t make it, but for all of them . . . I know they are up in Heaven watching down on us. Seven years ago, if I had not been diagnosed when I had been, I probably would never have seen my 14th birthday, and now in six days, I will be turning 21. God works in mysterious ways. I am ALIVE!!!!!!
7-year leukemia survivor”
This year as I am about to turn 41, I am amazed that 20 years ago, this first email was the start of a bigger journey. With the encouragement of many of you, I turned that email into a book. Faith, Hope and Cancer: The Journey of a Childhood Cancer Survivor was written to share my story with the world and to provide hope and inspire others.
Today, I am also thanking God for being able to reconnect with Linda, the nurse who saved my life. To see her again and thank her for saving my life was incredible. I am so grateful I could see her and talk to her before she passed away. Everything happens for a reason, and I feel blessed that I was in Ohio on her birthday. Just another small miracle in our relationship.
As I reflect on how my life changed in 1994, I can’t help but compare it to how my life changed in 2020. I see many similarities in how I felt during cancer treatment and how I felt living through a pandemic—isolated, in a world of the unknown—uncertain of what the future holds. I couldn’t go to school or see my friends, and I had to wear a mask and be socially distant before being socially distant was a thing. The only place I went for the first six months was to the hospital for treatment. To survive, I focused on the survival rates of childhood leukemia, not the death rates. Today, I do the same; I focus on the survival rates of the pandemic.
I was not afraid then, and I am not going to be afraid now. Why? Because I trust God knows what He is doing. I lived cautiously then, and I live cautiously now. I adapted to life then, and I adapted now. I remember being hopeful that my life would return to what I considered normal, and I am hopeful now.
When the world started opening up to me, and I finally could go back to school, I was excited to see my friends again and do normal teenage things, but I was also fearful of getting sick since my immune system was still recovering. Faith over fear got me through those days.
We never know when life is going to throw a curveball, tomorrow isn’t promised. So make today count! Go out into the world and share hope, be kind, and love. Focus on all the beauty in the world, find something positive every day, count your blessings, and most importantly, have faith.
I had faith God would help me get through cancer treatment, and I have faith God will help me and the world get through this pandemic. Just like cancer taught me to appreciate life, I think the pandemic has done the same for many people. I hope you take time today to thank God for everything He has given you, and I hope you never forget to love life, live life, and cherish every moment. 27-year Leukemia Survivor
January 24, 2020
I usually celebrate my cancerversary on January 25th, being that was the day I was diagnosed with childhood leukemia, but this year I am celebrating a day early.
26 years ago was the day I was admitted to the hospital. The morning started like any other, but my dad rushed me to the emergency room when I couldn’t stand up. After spending the day there, we were told that I was very sick and should get to Children’s Hospital immediately. I was only 13 years old at the time. Although I was concerned and scared because I had never been in the hospital before, I was relieved that someone might actually be able to tell me why I had been in so much pain.
Once the cancer diagnosis came, so did the prayers and positivity. We knew fighting cancer wasn’t going to be easy, but we knew prayer worked, and we took the time to find the good in every day. We focused on the positives of cancer, not the negatives. We prayed often, and my faith and relationship with God grew during this time.
As I am about to turn 40, I am looking at 2020 as my year of opportunity. The year, to look at each day as a new opportunity to pray, and to not only see the positive in every day but to do something positive every day. When we do something for someone, we need to remember that maybe God is answering their prayers through you.
My cancerversary is the day I celebrate life and all I’ve been through, but we need to celebrate life every day. Each day we wake up is a new opportunity. It is an opportunity to be kind, show someone you love them, and thank God for all He has given us. Take time today to celebrate your own lives; take a moment to do something for someone else. Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness make the biggest difference.
Love life, live your best life, and cherish every moment. 26-year Leukemia Survivor
January 25, 2019
Today marks my Golden Cancerversary; I am celebrating my 25th anniversary of being diagnosed with leukemia on the 25th of January. Each year is a milestone, but I have been looking forward to this one for years. I can proudly say I have survived for a quarter of a century!
Even though it was 25 years ago, I can still remember the events that led up to this day and all that followed like it was yesterday. I remember the nurses, doctors, and my chaplain who helped me get through my treatments. I remember sitting in the outpatient clinic with my mom every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I remember how scared I was to start high school bald. I remember how I felt when a senior at my high school died of undiagnosed leukemia and a month later how I felt when my mentor died. I remember how scared and excited I was to finish chemotherapy. I remember a good friend coming over with a peach rose to help me celebrate that day. I remember going to cancer camp for the first time and the amazing friendships that were created there. I remember my Special Wish trip to Disney World. I remember running my first half marathon with Team in Training, shaving my head for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and riding the Zamboni during Hockey Fights Cancer night. I remember the cancer patient’s I worked with at UNC and all those who passed away due to cancer and what it felt like to have survivors’ guilt. I remember what it felt like to finally feel peace after dealing with depression. Lastly, I remember how lucky and blessed I am.
I recently heard the quote, “You may not end up where you thought you’d be, but you will always end up where you’re meant to be.” I never would have imagined that I would end up being a patient at Children’s Hospital, I didn’t think I would ever hear the words “you have cancer” especially as a teenager, but I did. Why? Because God had a plan for me. This may not be the path I would have chosen, but it is the path God chose for me.
This year is special because I will be celebrating by publishing my inspirational biography Faith, Hope & Cancer: The Journey of a Childhood Cancer Survivor later this year. Writing a book to share my story with the world has always been something I have wanted to do, and this year my dreams will become a reality. I truly believe I survived because God’s plan for me was to offer hope to other cancer survivors and share God’s greatness in life.
Some might say, how is God great? You had cancer. I say God is great because I had cancer. I saw first-hand the power of prayer; I saw miracles happen and lives changed. I try to thank God every day for being alive, but on this day I am especially thankful.
I hope you take time today to thank God for everything He has given you, and I hope you never forget to love life, live life, and cherish every moment. 25-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2018
Twenty-four years ago, I woke up in a hospital room, had blood drawn, a bone marrow biopsy, and a spinal tap. Hours later, I was told I had leukemia.
Today, I woke up in my childhood bedroom, thanking God that I am alive and well. (With the RV in the shop, Lee and I are staying with my parents.) I lay in bed looking at my wall, imagining my first Communion banner hanging there. It has been in my room since 1987, but today it’s gone. I gave it to my nephew, who is about to celebrate his first Communion. My banner read, “I Thank You Jesus.” For the first time, I realize that when my mom picked that saying for my banner in the second grade, it would become a theme for my life. How many times throughout my life have I thanked God for the blessings He has given me.
When we pray, we often ask God to help do something, but how often do we take the time to thank Him. This past year was the best year of my life, and I am particularly thankful. I planned a wedding in three months, married my best friend, sold our house in one day, bought an RV a few months later, and spent the last part of the year traveling the United States. As we have traveled, I reconnect with old friends and meet strangers who became new friends. I saw the awesomeness and beauty of God’s work everywhere we went.
Celebrate today! Celebrate the life you have, your family, your friends, and thank God for all of it.
Love Life, live life, and cherish every moment. 24-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2017
Every year on this day, I am reminded to celebrate life. Today was the day I heard, “You have leukemia.” Hearing this changed my life. Not only was I going to have to go through two and a half years of treatment, but I would live the rest of my life as a cancer survivor. At the time, I had no idea the path my life was going to take. I had no idea that my faith in God would grow.
I thank God every day to be alive, but today most of all. After I was told I had leukemia, I was also told that I would not have lived to celebrate my 14th birthday in five days if I hadn’t been diagnosed. I often think about how sick I really was. I think about all the things that I could have missed:
- Graduating the eighth grade.
- Never going to high school.
- Never getting my driver’s license.
- Never going to prom or college or moving out on my own.
- Never meeting the man of my dreams.
- Never having my dad walk me down the aisle at my wedding.
- Never having my own family.
- I would have missed all of these things.
But God had a plan. He knew I was sick, He knew I would survive, and He knew one day I would live to accomplish all of these things. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Everything happens in its own time, and sometimes we have to wait years to accomplish something. But I have also learned that it’s always worth the wait.
Each year on this day, I go to church to thank God for today. To thank God for everything He has given me. Each year I laugh when I read the responsorial psalm: Go out to all the world and share the good news. I share my news with you so you can also celebrate your lives. Each morning we wake up is a miracle. You can see everything as a miracle, or you can see nothing as a miracle. The choice is ours to make. Today, I hope you see the miracles of life and take time to be thankful for all God has given you.
Love Life, live life, and cherish every moment. 23-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2016
I’ve told my story many times over the past 22 years, and each time I tell it to someone new, they appear shocked to hear that my diagnosis of cancer wasn’t the worst thing I’ve been through. I explain that it was a relief to be diagnosed, to finally have answers for what was causing my back pain, to be validated that my pain was real, and to finally be able to do something to get rid of the pain. I am always quick to let them know I view my diagnosis of leukemia as a blessing.
When cancer touches your life, it changes you, whether you were the one diagnosed, the sibling, parent, or friend. You will never be the same person when it’s all over. People say I must have been so strong to have survived cancer, but in reality, I was strong because I had to be. Granted, I have a strong personality, to begin with, but I was strong because I had no choice, I was strong because I trusted God and my doctors, and I was strong because I was surrounded by people who supported me.
I was reminded how strong I had to be when my dog Velvet was diagnosed with cancer. I had known something was wrong with her; she had enlarged lymph nodes for roughly two years. We tried chemotherapy, but nothing changed. Her story mimicked mine, signs that something was wrong but no answers. No one could tell me what was wrong until my uncle was doing a routine teeth cleaning and happened to take an x-ray and found a tumor in her chest cavity. When he told me she had cancer, my heart sank, but I was relieved that I finally knew what was wrong with her. The difference this time was there was no cure. I had always been the survivor or friend; I had never been in the role of the parent. Her diagnosis of cancer hit me hard because I knew there was nothing I could do. She was 12 years old, and surgery was not an option, so I put her on doggie hospice and controlled the pain. I loved her and let her live out the rest of her days with me as happy as she could be. It was hard to see the blessing in her diagnosis; she didn’t have a cure, she was a dog, and she had what I considered a ticking time bomb in her chest. When I first felt something was wrong with her, I decided to retire her from therapy dog work. I didn’t want to add more stress to her than I needed to, but after her diagnosis, I brought her back to work with me to spend more time with her. This was when the blessing happened. We had a patient who was dying of cancer and loved dogs. He didn’t have much energy and was close to the end of his life. When I brought Velvet in to see him, he smiled and pet her. When I told him that she too was dying of cancer, he smiled and said, “She’s just like me.” Her visit that day made a difference to him. She gave him one last opportunity to pet a dog and relate to someone. Velvet is gone now, but I often think about that day and how even her diagnosis was a blessing to that patient.
There is a blessing in everything, and we can either choose to look for it or ignore it. Look for the blessings in life. Thank God for those blessings and be grateful for the storms, as there is always a rainbow afterward.
Celebrate life. 22-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2015
As I sit and reflect on my life and think about how it all changed 21 years ago, when I was 14 and diagnosed with leukemia, I am reminded how easy it is to forget to truly live. A quote I recently saw said, “Cancer is not a death sentence, but rather a life sentence that pushes us to live.”
It is so easy to get in a rut, to get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and follow the same routine day after day. How often do we stop and appreciate the small stuff? The beauty of a single snowflake, the softness of our pet’s fur, and just the fact that we are alive—breathing, with blood running through our veins.
So today, I want to thank God for my life. I want to thank God for all the small things and the big things, the best times of my life and some of the worst times because I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. I am grateful that I am not lying in a hospital bed but rather sitting in my basement typing this letter with my Akita next to me. I am thankful I had cancer, fought cancer, and live to tell my story.
What would happen if suddenly tomorrow you only had what you were thankful for today? I challenge everyone to take a moment today and think about the little things. To appreciate them, cherish them, and thank God for them. As you never know when your life could suddenly change forever. 21-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2014
Twenty years ago today, I was told I had acute lymphocytic leukemia. My first hospital stay lasted about two weeks. I visited the outpatient clinic every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for six months to get chemo or blood transfusions, sometimes both. I had countless spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies during the time. I had chemo so strong they had to flush out my kidneys immediately to avoid kidney damage. I had two weeks of radiation at OSU. I had pneumonia, which eventually sent me to the Intensive Care Unit for a week. I missed the second half of my 8th grade year, started my freshman year bald, and finally finished my chemotherapy in April of my sophomore year.
It’s hard to believe I survived all of that, but I thank God I did. Having cancer changed my life, gave me purpose, and taught me valuable lessons. I discovered that life is precious, God works in mysterious ways, prayer works, everything happens for a reason, it’s ok to play the cancer card, those you expect to be by your side aren’t, and those who are, are the ones you least expect. It’s ok to plan your funeral when you’re 14 years old. That bald is beautiful! Survivor’s guilt eventually gets easier to deal with. The cancer community is bigger than you think. You become a survivor the minute you are diagnosed. What is normal changes. People will walk away, and you have to let them, no matter how much it hurts. Tell those you love that you love them.
I also learned an EKG and Echocardiogram should not take two hours, not all chemo makes you sick, and Zofran is an amazing drug for the chemo that does. Radiation and chemo are a bad combination. Losing your hair is fun; it doesn’t hurt when it comes out. That very few cancer patients think losing their hair is fun. If a nurse gives you Lasix, make sure you’re close to the bathroom and plan to spend an hour there. If you have poor circulation, warm your hand under hot water or wrap it in a warm washcloth before a finger stick. Patients have rights too. If you ask a doctor if it will hurt, they will always tell you that you may feel pressure. Some chemo makes your taste buds change, causing everything to have a metallic taste. Your sense of smell might become that of a bloodhound. Not everyone survives. You will make friends, and a couple of months later, you may be attending their funeral. It’s ok to hate cancer one minute and feel it was a blessing the next.
I started sending these emails in 2001 as my way of celebrating this day and my survival with all of you. Please celebrate this milestone with me by celebrating my life, your life, and the lives of those you love. See the beauty the surrounds you and reflect on the lessons life has taught you and the gifts God has given you. 20-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2013
Today marks my 19th cancerversary. I was 13, almost 14 when I was diagnosed with leukemia. Having cancer at such a young age and at a pivotal point in one’s life changes everything. My whole life changed because of one simple word: cancer. I had no control; I had to trust God, in the doctors, and the medications. I realized then that God had a plan for me and that I survived because I still had things to do on Earth. To this day, I still trust God will lead me to where I need to be to do His will. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and if it is meant to be, it will be, and if not, better things are waiting to be found.
I hope you take the time today to celebrate life with me—my life, your life, and the lives of those you love. See the beauty that surrounds you and reflect on the gifts that you have been given and that you have to offer others.
Love life, live life, and enjoy every moment. 19-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2012
For the majority of the last 18 years, I viewed my cancer as a blessing. Thanking God for all He had given me through the cancer experience. However, in recent years, the pain of losing friends to cancer caused me to start seeing my cancer as a curse. All I could see was what cancer had taken away. At a friend’s funeral, I heard, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4.
I did not understand what that meant and could not fathom how in David’s last days he turned to this verse. For the past two years, I have been trying to make sense of it. I am happy to say I finally get it. All the things I perceived as a curse were God’s will and everything happened for a reason. Even in the darkest moments, God was with me, and I grew stronger because of all my experiences – the good and the bad. It’s in sharing my story that I give glory to Him. I realize once again that my cancer experience is a blessing, and I have gained so much more than I ever lost and thank God that I once again can celebrate my life with all of you.
I am thankful to have all of you in my life and to be able to share this special day with you—the day I was diagnosed. The day I was given a second chance to live. Thank you to the friends and family who were there for me then and here for me now. I hope you take the time today to celebrate life and to see the beauty that surrounds you. As my friend, Amanda once said so perfectly, “Don’t just live but LIVE RIGHT NOW WITH HOPE. Live in the moment and know that God is going to take care of you. ALL of life, not just parts of it, is in good hands and live with promise in your heart that even though the future is uncertain and scary, everything happens for a reason. Live with confidence that you are being guided every step of the way. Not all of these steps are going to be happy and cheerful; some may be filled with pain and sadness. But Choose to Live with Hope knowing that He is always there and will take care of you.”
Dance in the rain and enjoy every moment. 18-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2011
Ten years ago, I sent my 1st celebration of life email. Since then, every year on January 25th, I celebrate this day with you. As I was talking to one of my residents yesterday, I realized that January 25th is not only the day I celebrate my life but the day God gave me a second chance to live. Seventeen years ago, after two months of back pain, I was diagnosed with leukemia. I will never forget when my doctor told me if I had not been diagnosed I probably would have gone into a coma and died within two or three days.
This year I remember the special people who helped me get through my treatment. I was lucky enough to be reunited with many of them this year. Dr. Ruymann, the doctor who diagnosed me, retired this year. At his retirement party, I was reunited with Dr. O’Dorisio, the doctor who introduced me to my mentor, Kelly, and Dr. Grossman, who could always make me laugh. I also saw Carla and Diane, my nurse practitioners and angels—they were the best at giving spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies.
Most recently, I was reunited with Fr. Ralko, my chaplain at Children’s. He was one of the first to understand that I accepted my diagnosis and gave my life to God and the doctors to heal. It is on this day that I am reminded of the two beliefs that got me through my treatment: “Everything happens for a reason” and “God will only give us as much as we can handle.”
I hope you take the time today to celebrate your life. Know that God is with you every step of the way. Not all of these steps will be easy, but know He will always be there to take care of you.
Love life, live life, and enjoy every moment. 17-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2010
Sixteen years have gone by since I was diagnosed with cancer. January 25, 1994 was the day I realized what cancer was, and now many years later, cancer continues to be part of my life. There are many times I wish to be normal and wonder what it is to be like everyone else my age. Then I realize that I am lucky because I was given a second chance at life. Today, I am not only celebrating my life but celebrating the lives of four friends, all who had cancer, who helped me along the way.
Kelly—one of the first people I met who had cancer. My doctor introduced us because she knew Sarah could help me through my treatment. Sarah also had leukemia and was two years ahead of me in treatment. She gave me great advice and insight on what to expect. Sadly, she passed away just before my 16th birthday.
Jon—a senior at my high school, who I didn’t know but my family did, because he, like my brother and sister, was in the marching band. Jon lapsed into a coma and died the day after Christmas from undiagnosed leukemia. Like Sarah, Jon gave me insight—a perspective on what would have happened to me if I hadn’t been diagnosed.
Amanda—a girl I randomly met at a meeting in Greensboro, NC. At that meeting, we realized we lived in the same apartment complex in Chapel Hill. We became fast friends because she was going through treatment for pancreatic cancer, and I could understand what she was going through and talked about life as cancer survivors. Amanda lost her life this past year. At her funeral, I remember someone saying, “Amanda did not believe she lost her battle with cancer. She won because she lived five wonderful years surviving a disease that is so ugly.”
David—a great friend I met at a cancer survivor meeting for young adults. Together we planned Hockey Fights Cancer Night with the Carolina Hurricanes. He is one of my heroes. His type of cancer has been unforgiving. Even after chemo, radiation, and an amputation of his arm, it keeps coming back. The courage and determination he has (as does his wife) to continue to fight and live each day to the fullest is inspiring.
Kelly helped me in the moment as I was going through treatment; Jon helped me realize what could have been and to appreciate life; considering how we met Amanda reminded me that God works in mysterious ways; and David reminds me to never give up no matter how bad things are.
I’m ending with words Amanda once said. Don’t just live but LIVE RIGHT NOW WITH HOPE. Live in the moment and know that God is going to take care of you. ALL of life, not just parts of it, is in good hands, and live with promise in your heart that even though the future is uncertain and scary, everything happens for a reason. Live with confidence that you are being guided every step of the way. Not all of these steps are going to be happy and cheerful; some may be filled with pain and sadness. But Choose to Live with Hope knowing that He is always there and will take care of you. 16-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2009
Today marks the 15th anniversary of my diagnosis of childhood leukemia. Every year on this day, I remember the events leading up to my diagnosis and thank God that I am alive to celebrate this day with all of you. Over the past year, I have started to see my cancer experience through different eyes. I have always been able to recognize all the good that has come from it, but this year I saw the bad as well. I realized that the day I was diagnosed was the beginning of the end of many friendships. This left me feeling alone and isolated from others. It is hard being friends with someone when they don’t understand why I view my cancer experience as a blessing or why being an advocate for other cancer survivors is so important to me. It’s even harder to be friends with someone when I feel I have to hide my cancer experience because I fear that they too may not understand once they find out.
Luckily this past May, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet many other cancer survivors through the I’m Too Young for This! Cancer Foundation. i2y is a one-of-a-kind organization dedicated to young adults affected by cancer. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I fit in. I have become a passionate member of this organization because I know first-hand how cancer can isolate you from the rest of the world, and I want to make sure others don’t have to wait as long as I did to find a group like this one. i2y is only two years old, and I want to make the world aware that i2y is out there.
Although my life hasn’t been an easy one, I know I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t gone through everything I had. Remember, no matter how bad life gets, life still needs to be celebrated. Life can change in an instant. I hope you take the time today to celebrate life with me, see the beauty that surrounds you, and reflect on the gifts that you have been given and that you have to offer others.
Love life, live life, and enjoy every moment. 15-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2008
Today, I celebrate my 14th anniversary of being a cancer survivor by completing a tattoo I started last year. I had “January 24–25, 1994” tattooed on my left ankle. Many family members and friends were surprised by this, but as I explained the meaning behind it, everyone soon understood why I did it.
I remember waking up Monday morning in pain (the same pain I had had for the previous two months). My mom told me I could go to school late and that Dad would drive me to school in a few hours. My brother left for school, and my parents left for work, leaving me alone in the house. As I bent over to pick up my uniform, I felt a sharp pain in my spine (a more intense pain than I had experienced before) and could not straighten my back. I stayed in this bent position for a few minutes as I tried to straighten my back. I eventually was able to move enough, although still in pain, to get to the phone and call my dad, who luckily only worked five minutes away. My dad quickly came home, picked me up, carried me to the car, and drove me to the emergency room. I remember him saying, “I’ve had enough of this. We can’t wait a few more days to see the doctor, and you’re seeing a doctor right now.”
My dad and I were in the emergency room for hours. By the time my blood work results came back, my mom had gotten home from work and was with us at the emergency room. When the doctor came in to tell us the results, I remember him saying, “You have a very sick daughter, you need to get her to the Children’s Hospital immediately.” We all left the hospital, drove home, picked up a few items, and drove to Children’s Hospital that night.
Tuesday, January 25th, after having a bone marrow biopsy, more blood work, and a spinal tap done, I received my official diagnosis. I remember being so grateful to have a diagnosis, even though it was cancer because it gave a reason why I had the horrendous back pain for two months. I also remember the doctors telling me that if I hadn’t been diagnosed when I had been, I would have had about two or three more days before the leukemia would have taken over my body, and I probably would gone into a coma and died. My life changed forever that day, and I thanked God then and I still do for giving me a second chance at life.
Everything about the tattoo is meaningful, even the fact that it is placed on the left side of my body. For treatment purposes, I had a catheter placed in my chest. For the first three months, each time they used the catheter to give me IV medicine, the left side of my body from my shoulder to my toes would go numb for about an hour. In May, the doctors eventually realized that catheter was placed in an artery (this is a big mistake, the catheter is supposed to go into a vein), and the fluid going through the catheter was probably hitting a nerve. The doctors had to do emergency surgery to replace my catheter. I remember them telling me that they had never seen this happen before, and I was lucky that I didn’t have any complications from this during the past three months. Again, I thank God for watching over my nurse, who noticed the mistake, and me.
Today, I will add a cross to my tattoo. I wanted to add a cross because of the role God played during my treatment. Thanks to my mom and my cousin, I chose a cross my grandpa had drawn years ago. When I was diagnosed my grandpa was sick as well. I know that each night as he said his prayers, he said a special one for me, so to have one of his crosses as part of my tattoo is a wonderful feeling.
I am blessed to have all of you in my life and to be able to share this special day with you. As I learned 14 years ago and was reminded of many times during the past year, life can change in an instant. I hope you take the time today to celebrate life with me, see the beauty surrounding you, and reflect on the gifts you have been given.
Always remember life is precious. Love life, live life, and enjoy every moment. 14-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2007
For the past 13 years, I have had an opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of my diagnosis of leukemia and my second chance at life with all of you. January 25th has always been a special day for me, being that it is a day that reminds me how precious life is. It reminds me of the family and friends who were there for me then and are here for me now. It reminds me that God is there for you no matter what, and if you make plans, He laughs. I just wanted to take the time today to celebrate with you. May your lives be filled with hope, happiness, and love. 13-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2006
Well, it’s that time of year again, the time where I celebrate my life with all of you. This time of year is always a special time for me because it allows me to remember all the wonderful things that happened during my cancer experience. I know most people wouldn’t put “wonderful” and “cancer” in the same sentence, but I am not most people. I’d like to share some of the wonderful things that I am thankful for:
– I became closer to my parents, especially my mom, who stayed with me and became a nurse for a year to take care of me.
– All the nurses and doctors who put up with me. For those who didn’t know me back then, I was a tough patient who tested many nurses’ patience.
– I got to experience the beauty of being bald.
– I showed people that prayer works. I remember waking up every morning with a feeling of comfort, knowing that people all over the world were praying for me.
– Joining the “cancer community.” I love being able to say I am a cancer survivor and letting people know that cancer does not mean death. It means hope and a second chance.
– My cancer experience gave purpose to my life. It caused me to get involved in animal-assisted therapy. I also found my dream job this summer in North Carolina working with cancer patients (unfortunately, my dream job isn’t ready for me yet).
– By sharing my story, I can offer hope to others going through hard times in their lives.
This year to celebrate my survival of 12 years, I have decided to join Team in Training and run another half-marathon while raising money for cancer research. What can I say? I am a cancer survivor who loves to give back.
Always remember life is precious. Love life, live life, and enjoy every moment. 12-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2005
Today marks the 11th year of my diagnosis. Every year on this day, I celebrate my life. I think back on everything I had to go through to overcome leukemia. Today is also my day to thank God. He gave me life when I was born, and He gave me life again 11 years ago.
This past October, I had the chance to celebrate my life and remember the lives of those who lost theirs to cancer. I had the opportunity to join Team in Training and run 13.1 miles in beautiful San Francisco. This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was part of a team where everyone’s goal was to help beat cancer.
I have been blessed with the gift of cancer. I know that may sound strange to some of you, but I would not be who I am today without cancer.
I hope you take the time today to see the beauty surrounding you and reflect on the gifts you have been given. 11-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2004
Today I am celebrating my 10th anniversary of being diagnosed with leukemia and would like you to celebrate with me. Today I remember what the past ten years have been like.
Over the past 10 years, I fought cancer and won; I graduated from grade school, high school and college; my dreams of working with tigers and dolphins came true; I have seen the beauty of Hawaii, Arizona, and the Florida Keys; I swam in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean as well as the Gulf of Mexico; I made many friends; and I have become closer to my family.
This past year I have seen my best friend get married. I met Clay, my boyfriend, who makes me incredibly happy, and I have figured out what I want to do with my life. However, I also had to say “I’ll see you again, in Heaven” to my loving Grandma and Dodge, my brother’s dog, who made him so happy. Happiness and sadness are a part of life, and I am lucky enough to be celebrating the happiness of my life.
I am happy and healthy and can only imagine what the rest of my life will be like, what other obstacles I will overcome, and what kind of difference I will make in the world.
I hope everything is going well for all of you and that your lives can be filled with the beauty and wonders of God. “We know not what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.” 10-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2003
I want to share this special day with all of you. Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with leukemia. Today is a day I get to celebrate being alive. I am alive because of God. I am one of the lucky ones. I was graced with the chance to survive cancer. Now, not many people would use “graced with” and “cancer” in the same sentence, but I do. I am a survivor, and because of that, my life has changed. Ever since I was sick, I dreamed of working with kids with cancer and animals. While I was in Florida this past year, part of that dream came true. I not only got a chance to be part of a little girl’s decision to go back on chemo, but I also got to see other children smile because of the dolphins. This past week I decided to go back to school to fulfill that dream and become a recreational therapist so that I can truly work with kids like me and animals. Nine years ago, my mom told me that there was a reason I was chosen to deal with leukemia. She didn’t know why or when I would find those reasons out, but I knew she was right. I have already been able to help so many people because of the battle I survived, and I know in these upcoming years I will be able to help many more. I am glad that I have so many friends I can share this day with. Although I can’t be with all of you, I know in my heart you are here. 9-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2002
I want to celebrate today with all of you because eight years ago today, my life changed forever. For today is the 8th anniversary of my diagnosis of leukemia. Each year this day holds a special place in my heart. The gift of life was given to me for a second time. The memories of it all are still so strong. I remember sleeping in a chair for two months, the pain I felt each time I coughed, sneezed, laughed, or moved. The countless trips to the doctors for x-rays for my “mysterious” back pain. Then on the 24th, when I couldn’t stand up, my dad brought me to the emergency room. And I will never forget hearing the words, “You have a very sick child; you better take her to Children’s.” On the 25th, after having tests done, the doctors told me I had leukemia. I celebrate my life today because it was the first day of the rest of my life. It doesn’t seem like eight years, but I am proud to say I am a cancer survivor. And I thank God for the wonderful life He has given me. I know some of you have only known me for a short time. A lot of you I met because of cancer and going to camp. Others of you were there with me when I was going through the treatments. To you, I thank you for being there and the prayers you said. 8-year leukemia survivor
January 25, 2001
I just wanted to share the good news with everyone . . . I am alive to celebrate my 7th anniversary of going to the ER and then to Children’s Hospital to be diagnosed. In 1994, I was rushed to the ER because of my intense back pain to find out later I had 99+ leukemia cells in my bone marrow. Thanks to my doctors, I am here today to share my story. This is my biggest accomplishment in life, and I am so happy that I am doing well. I know some of you didn’t know me back when I was sick, but I thank you now for accepting me for who I am . . . leukemia and all. All the memories from that first hospital stay are so vivid in my memory. It’s amazing that it’s been so long. I have met many wonderful people through camp and cancer lists. I know what I went through has made me who I am today. I thank God for being here to celebrate. I know my battle with cancer was a tough fight, and some don’t make it, but for all of them . . . I know they are up in Heaven watching down on us. Seven years ago, if I had not been diagnosed when I had been, I probably would never have seen my 14th birthday, and now in six days, I will be turning 21. God works in mysterious ways. I am ALIVE!!!!!! 7-year leukemia survivor