The Short Version:
Interests: Running, education, writing, art, advocacy
Words to describe me: Competitive, optimistic, creative, resilient
The Long Version:
When I was 21 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, I was in college and had just been awarded a privately funded full scholarship that had to be used during the next school year, which would be my fourth and final year of undergrad. I earned the scholarship as a result of a 250 word essay I wrote about work I was doing at a shelter for abused and neglected children in the city of Trenton, NJ. However, at the close of my junior year of college, I receive the shocking news that a freckle on my shoulder was in fact a melanoma. The cancer was found throughout the depth of the biopsy collected, which meant it was most likely advanced.
During the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I had multiple surgeries to remove the cancer and the lymphnodes that were affected. I was advised to take the year off of school to complete a twelve-month immunochemotherapy regiment, but I chose to stay in school while I completed treatment, because I was determined to graduate on time, and more importantly, I wanted to take advantage of the generous scholarship I had won.
I would describe the next year as the most difficult of my life, and although I hope to have many more years of living, I doubt there will be few, if any, as challenging as the one I spent going to school, student-teaching, and doing chemo. But with the support of friends, family, and some very accommodating professors, I made it, graduating summa cum laude, right on schedule.
I completed chemo as I entered the job hunt, and began my teaching career during the first month I returned to life without chemo. Describing myself as unprepared for life after treatment would be a gross understatement. In the coming months and years I slowly re-assimilated into the world of healthy young adults. Life 'after' cancer came with its own set of challenges- recurrence scares, juggling regular doctor's appointments with a work schedule, and determining just how much to share with my coworkers and employer were just some of the unique challenges I faced as a young adult cancer survivor.
It took me nearly three years to truly feel 'normal' after cancer. No one told me that it would be so hard to recover, both physically and emotionally. I believe I am a different person than I was before my cancer experience, and I finally can say something positive has come from my experience. As a result of cancer, I have accomplished many things I never would have considered tackling before. I have white water kayaked, traveled the country, become an avid runner, and written a memoir (no, it's not published).
For so long, I did not believe life after cancer could ever be as good as it was before, but now it is. The tagline for Hope Love Run was originally "Treatment saved me from cancer, running saved me from treatment" which is completely true, but although it would be too wordy to include, writing and art also played a pivotal role in cancer becoming less a part of my day-to-day life and more a piece of my past (I have since updated the tagline to better reflect where I am in this journey now).
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Hope, Love, Run,