Cancer became a part of my life in 1999 when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 9 years old, in the fifth grade at Overbrook School, and I had no idea how sick my mom really was. I will never forget the night she told my brother, Dalton, and me that she was sick. She called us into her room and I jumped in her bed with my brother and sat on the end while my mom explained to us that the doctors had found something in her breast that was making her sick and that she was going to have it removed the following week.
That next week was my first time to visit the Vanderbilt Hospital and I had no idea that this institution would become an integral part of my life. My mom had an incredible team of doctors and staff that assisted her with the fight against cancer. As of this year, my mom is 10 years cancer free, and I have Vanderbilt and its team to thank for that as well as my faith in God that got me through that difficult time. Because of my mom’s experience with cancer, I became aware of the magnitude of this disease and realized the impact it has on individuals, families, and friends.
On December 26th, 2004, I walked downstairs and saw my dad on the phone. I fell to the floor as I realized that Gigi, the lady who had taken care of my mom since she was 7, and me since I was born, had lost the battle against Esophageal cancer. I was blindsided by this news because, even though I knew she was very sick, I believed that cancer was curable. This experience led me to develop a passion for the fight against cancer because I want my beliefs as a 15-year-old to come true for everyone around the world. I want cancer to be curable.
This passion grew stronger when my grandmother was diagnosed with Lung cancer in November of 2006. My grandmother and I were kindred spirits…we shared many characteristics as well as our name. From November to the following June, I have never experienced such growth in one relationship in my life. The bond between my grandmother and I was indestructible, no matter what challenges either of us faced. I learned a lot about myself during those months and the extent to which I was willing to go to help not only my grandmother, but also those around her who were suffering as well. I witnessed the gruesome side effects this disease causes as well as those brought on chemotherapy and radiation. I shared so many beautiful moments with my grandmother during those months, memories I wouldn’t have made unless I was by her side. This realization made me come to terms with the fact that even though she passed away in June of 2007, we were given the opportunity to strengthen our relationship and experience a deeper love than ever before.
I try to always find one positive in a bad situation, no matter how terrible it is. I have found many positives from my experiences with cancer. Not only does it bring families and loved ones together, but it also reminds them of the meaning of life and challenges them to face their fears and make the most of every day. It brings awareness to a vast amount of people around the World, which only brings us closer to finding a cure. Although cancer has struck the lives of many of our loved ones, I believe that the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center will help in the quest for a cure and I am excited to be a part of VICC Ambassadors so that I can help in that search!