"I don't think I'll ever stop trying to make an impact or changes for the better. This is what survivorship means to me," says Beyond the Cure scholarship recipient Elizabeth Allen.
Cancer survivorship is definitely a journey that lasts a lifetime. Having cancer isn't just a one-time thing; once you've been diagnosed, it stays with you forever - it truly changes your life. You have to guard against bitterness and negativity; there are many long term side-effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatments that haunt survivors for the rest of their lives. I've developed some side-effects from my chemotherapy and radiation treatments, including a cavernous malformation (non-cancerous) that required another brain surgery. Thankfully, however, none of my other side-effects are very detrimental yet, although I know other survivors aren't as lucky, in that sense, as I am. As a cancer survivor, I am also more at risk for heart disease and other cancers than an average person in the population. I don't know what the future may hold; childhood cancer survivors are truly in uncharted territory since so many of us are surviving.
I try to stay positive, however, and choose to be proactive about my health. Because of those possible side-effects, I try to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. I pay more attention to what I put in my body and how I treat it, and I try to exercise and much as I can. I think often of the prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: "Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisom to know the difference."
More importantly, I enjoy living. I think differently as a cancer survivor than I did before my diagnosis. I have a different mindset; I approach live with a more positive outlook. I realize that life is too short to worry; it's a gift, and you have to treat every day like it is your last. Yet I also don't want to make my survivorship journey alone. I'm going to make the best out of my experience, and use it to help and teach others. I believe that, as a cancer survivor, I have a duty to reach out. I try to spread my healthy habits to others, as well as provide support to those who are battling cancer, whether through fundraisers or in other ways. I hope to go to medical school ater college to become a doctor.
I think most people who know me would agree that I am a positive person, working to make a difference. Whether it's fundraising for cancer research, or simply lobbying my collge for healthier food in the cafeteria I don't think I'll ever stop trying to make an impact or changers for the better all around me. This is what survivorship means to me. In that sense, my journey of giving back, my journey that started with cancer, will never end.