As we all know, there are many different kinds of anniversaries. Days or years that mark important events in our lives. Birthdays. Weddings. Graduations. Occasions that symbolize progress, uniformity, success and stability. Well, I’m happy to report that this year — 2015 — is my anniversary. Indeed, it is one of the biggest anniversaries of my life. For you see, it was twenty years ago that I was first diagnosed with cancer.
Like many of you reading this today, I am a survivor. Not only am I a survivor of one cancer, but I am a survivor of three different cancers including colon, breast and skin cancer. Each one occurred over the last twenty years — each one presented a daunting challenge — each one was faced and fought with help from friends and family — and each one was survived.
I know what it’s like to have cancer — to fight cancer — and to survive cancer. And I know it’s not easy. I know it calls upon every ounce of energy you have and every shred of courage you can muster. I know there are times when you’re scared. Times when you’re not sure you can make it. Times when you want to give up. But, I also know it’s possible to replace those doubts with confidence. Those fears with fortitude. And, those misgivings with resolve — the resolve to fight and to survive.
For the most important thing to remember is that cancer can be overcome. We live in an age in which medical technology and cancer research are reaching new heights of excellence. Great strides are being made in perfecting minimally invasive procedures and targeted therapies. New and effective strategies and treatments are being developed every day. And help is always available!
I’m often asked if cancer has changed my life. And, my answer is absolutely! For the better! For without the challenges posed to me over the last twenty years I never would have become a patient advocate. I never would have written two best-selling books. And, I never would have had the opportunity — or the privilege — to counsel other cancer patients through their survival process.
And, make no mistake about it. Your life will change as well. So choose to allow your life to change in a positive and powerful way. Allow your life to be enhanced, improved and expanded. Take your experience and transcend it! Use it to transform yourself — and others. For I truly believe that the best way to rise above our own problems and pain is to help others rise above theirs. Share your journey with others. Allow others to reap the benefit of your experience. Allow others to learn from your mistakes.
Ultimately, we are not defined by our cancer. We are not defined by the things that happen to us. We are not defined by our circumstances. We are not defined by the adversity we face. Rather, we are defined by the choices we make when faced with difficult circumstances and unexpected adversity.
For we all face something. We all have some challenge, some obstacle, some pitfall that we must acknowledge, endure and overcome. And when we do — if we can learn not only to see the difficulty — but also to see the opportunity for growth — we can take the experience, move through it, learn from it and find a way to pay it forward.
We all are much more powerful than we realize! We all have much more control over our lives than we know! So, remain determined! Remain brave! Remain confident! Continue to fight the good fight! And to each and every one of you — to all the survivors — may you enjoy anniversary after anniversary for many, many years to come!