“Being a survivor… has taught me what is important, and showed me how vital it is to live everyday to the fullest.”
I was first diagnosed with Wilms Tumor at the tender age of seven. I had no idea what cancer was let alone what it meant to be a survivor. After the completion of treatment, while in remission, survivorship had meaning. At the time it meant you’ve lived to tell a story; that you have overcome. I now realize, as I have matured, experienced life, and grown as a person, that being a survivor is so much more. Most people who have never personally experienced cancer think the same way my eight year old self did; survivorship meaning someone who has survived cancer. What they don’t realize is that I was a survivor long before I was in remission. I became a survivor the minute I got cancer, the instant I started chemotherapy and radiation, and I will be a survivor for the rest of my life, even in death. Just because the cancer hadn’t yet left my body didn’t mean I wasn’t surviving. I was surviving life with cancer and continuing on despite it.
In nearly 11 years since my diagnosis survivorship has been embedded in my shadow. It continues to follow me, and it influences every aspect of my life. I have learned how to take care of myself, to be liable for my actions and decisions, and to be extremely conscious of my health. My friends call me a perfectionist, and think I am innocent because I am not reckless. The truth is, I can’t afford to be reckless, and sometimes, I can’t afford to make mistakes. If someone were to ask me to go back in time and change the fact that I got sick, would I do it? I truly don’t know how to answer this question. Part of me is screaming “YES!”, but then I wouldn’t have met all the amazing people I did. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to help others going through the same thing, and I am sure, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Being a survivor means blazing a trail. It means continuing to fight for myself and for others. It has taught me what is important, and showed me how vital it is to live everyday to the fullest. I have been labeled a survivor for the majority of my life. It has shaped the person I am today in more ways than one. The word survivor does not define who I am, but rather in what I have experienced and what I have to offer. My journey isn’t over, and as I grow and pave a path for myself in this world, I will continue to redefine what it means to be a survivor.
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