Cancer. A word that is feared, loathed and frightening. I have too much personal experience dealing with this word and its effects on my loved ones. When I was just 4 years old, I lost a friend to the horrible disease, and there's not a day I don't think about Marlee. We would be the same age today, our birthdays are only a week apart in February. I would have another best friend, sister and companion. But this disease didn't allow that to happen. I know that she is always looking over myself, her family and her friends and having a great time in heaven, but it doesn't make losing a child and friend that young any easier.
My mother has also dealt with cancer not once but twice in her lifetime, one being in my lifetime. She had Non-Hodgkins lymphoma in her late teens/early 20s and won the battle fair and square. Four years ago, she went through breast cancer and defeated it. She is a warrior, my strength, my best friend. Had she not fought so hard and lost the battle, I don't think I would be where I am today. When life gets tough, I can look at her and remember that I can get through anything.
In the fall of 2014, I started college at The University of Iowa and a student organization called Dance Marathon caught my attention. Dance Marathon raises money year-round for The University of Iowa Children's Hospital and the pediatric oncology patients. I knew this was a cause I had to step in a fight for. Throughout the years, I've been able to hear so many children's stories and how they've overcome the disease, are fighting it or are "dancing in our hearts." It is truly amazing to see the smiles on their faces despite every challenge and obstacle they've been put through. This year, I've pledged to raise $1,000 for the cause and run the Chicago Marathon all For The Kids. Am I crazy? Maybe. But this is something I'm willing to give my all for and challenge myself for because if these kids can fight cancer, I can run 26.2 miles. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.
So everyone (myself included) may see the negatives associated with cancer, but I see more. I see hope, love and determination. I see that through my friend Marlee's family, my mom and all of these kiddos I'm helping with Dance Marathon. Everyone I know affected by this disease has given me two lifetimes of inspiration to get through any challenge I may face even if it's as simple as getting through a class. I cannot be more thankful for everything these people have taught me and the opportunity to work with these kiddos all year. I know cancer is scary, but I encourage you to look for the good in the worst of times. Look for the hope, love and determination that those affected possess. That shows you true strength. I would like to tell Marlee's family, my mom and all of these kiddos that I love them and I'll always be with you.