“Survivorship to me is using my story to inspire others, remembering that my courage is bigger than all my fears, and reminding myself daily of the battle which taught me that love has the capacity to multiply faster than any cancer cell ever could.”
I believe it has taken me all of the three years since my diagnosis to fully wrap my head around what happened to me, and to begin to truly define survivorship in the context of the rest of my life. It is hard to fully comprehend the extraordinary impact one experience could have on the entirety of my existence. However, hardly a day goes by when I do not think back on, or apply a lesson I was taught through the greatest trial of my life.
The best way I can describe my experience with cancer and what I have learned, is to equate myself to George Bailey, the main character in the famous movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Just like George, I have always had big dreams and ambitions for the future. I grew up in a small town and I always yearned for far away places that offered excitement and adventure. In fact, on New Years Eve, three years ago, I had vowed that 2017 was going to bring me one of the biggest adventures of my life. And it did…just in the most unexpected way.
All who have seen the movie know that in the end George realizes that everything he truly needed was right in front of him. My experience with cancer was very similar. When I was first diagnosed, I felt glued to my reality. My biggest fear was that while being cooped up in a hospital, I might be missing out. And yet, inside those hospital walls, I learned more about the things that truly matter: love, family, and friendship, than on any other “adventure” in my life. At every turn, I was overcome by the outpouring of love from my community. Letters, gifts, food, and encouragements poured into our home and my various hospital rooms for months. As I was encouraged by people far and wide, I even found myself in a position to encourage others during my own battle. While some days were more challenging than others, each and every day presented a new reason to be thankful. I posted these reasons on social media and began t,o find purpose in sharing updates on my stories and encouraging thoughts for others to read. This unique experience was one that I had never had before my diagnosis.
I had the opportunity to live out one of the most perplexing clichés of all time which says, “Our greatest disappointments may become our greatest blessings in disguise.” I believe this whole-heartedly and this is a lesson and a mentality that I continue to live by, and to which I will hold on to for the rest of my life.
Because of my trial, I have faith that there is always a purpose in pain, and peace to be found when we know that God makes all things work together for our good. Even now as I write this, I recognize that my diagnosis could bring blessings to my life in the form of financial aid for me to complete my college education and conquer my biggest dreams and adventures yet to come. Life will never stop presenting these challenges, but I will never stop doing my best to meet each of them with joy.
Survivorship to me is using my story to inspire others, remembering that my courage is bigger than all my fears, and reminding myself daily of the battle which taught me that love has the capacity to multiply faster than any cancer cell ever could.
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