“Life is a fragile thing, and we never know the moment it will end, but I want to live all of the days I have with thankfulness.”
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian cancer on January 24, 2013. My family likes to describe this experience with the eloquent phrase, “it sucked.” It’s true; the experience was painful and difficult. Cancer brought me lower than I have ever been and ever hope to be again. However, over the years, I’ve come to recognize so many wonderful things that have happened as a result of having cancer. For me, survivorship means recognizing these changes in my life; it means the chance to experience growth, appreciation, and opportunity.
During the several months I had cancer, I experienced a large amount of growth in a short amount of time, and in the years since then I have continued that process of developing. My newfound relationship with God was the most significant growth in my life. Even during the darkest time, God brought me light and comfort, and He has continued to show me how gracious and good He is through his faithfulness and blessings. I saw a lot of suffering during that time, not just in my life , but also in the lives of people we encountered in the hospital or Ronald McDonald home. This was difficult, but it helped me to grow in my understanding of hard things. I developed a maturity towards suffering that opened my eyes at a young age and gave me the tools I needed to have discussions with others. Surviving cancer gave me the chance to grow and experience life with new eyes.
Survivorship has also shown me what it truly means to have appreciation. It’ s more than just being thankful for the doctors and nurses that helped me to live, although that is a part of it. When I had cancer, there were so many things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t run; I couldn’t complete schoolwork; I couldn’t eat without feeling nauseous. After the cancer was gone, it was as if a whole new world was opening up to me. I was able to do and experience all this stuff again.
Even small things like sitting in the sunlight were the happiest moments in the world. In the years since then, this is how I have tried to live my life: Reveling in small, beautiful things. I’ve seen how important it is to be thankful for my breath and my ability to run and learn and feel the sun on my skin. Surviving cancer showed me that I am incredibly blessed to have these, and I should never take them for granted.
Likely the most important part of survivorship is the opportunities that have opened up to me. For my Make-a-Wish trip, I was able to take my family to see the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. We visited the pediatric oncology ward of the hospital and interviewed doctors and nurses to learn more about cancer in a third world country. The goal was to collect information and raise awareness about their needs. The trip was amazing. My family and I were able to connect on a personal level with people who lived on a different continent, were from a different culture, and spoke a different language. One thing the head oncology doctor said to me on the last day sticks in my mind: “Your pain and sad experience has been used to help other people.” This trip would never have happened if I hadn’t had cancer. This terrible thing that happened to me can now be used to help others. My story is powerful, and it allows me to connect with people and give them hope in their darkness. That is an incredible opportunity.
It may sound absurd, but I can say with the utmost sincerity that I am thankful I had cancer. This disease wrecked me, but I have seen so much joy since then, joy that I couldn’t have experienced without cancer. Cancer is the spark that ignited a fire in my life. It drives me to live my days fully. It allows me to understand suffering on a personal level. Ultimately, it gives me the opportunity to serve people. I never want to take my life for granted. Surviving cancer has given me the chance to live with a purpose. Life is a fragile thing, and we never know the moment it will end, but I want to live all of the days I have with thankfulness.
If you would like to help Kaylee and other children battling cancer, donate today!