This past Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of when I finished chemotherapy. My "Chemo-versary!" Not only is it the two-year anniversary of when I finished chemo, but later on this year, it will be 10 years since my first surgery.
Prior to my first surgery and even during the past few years, I always viewed cancer as the end-all-be-all. That it would forever leave a negative effect on my life and that it would follow me around like a dark shadow pushing into every part of my life.
For some reason, I was, for lack of a better word, ashamed of all that I had experienced. I thought that people would see me only as the person that has cancer and that every time that I spoke about it, they would roll their eyes thinking, what else would we expect.
Over the years, I have come to realize and accept that part of that is true. I was right in thinking that there is no way to keep cancer from spreading into every part of my life. That is how much of an effect that it has made in my life.
That isn't a bad thing or something to be ashamed of, though. I don't think of it as a dark shadow anymore. I now see it as a light to follow that has guided me to who I am today and who I will become. I would never have expected that something as disgusting as cancer could be a learning experience that I could not have gotten anywhere else.
My Nana has a newspaper clipping on her refrigerator about what cancer cannot do.
When I first read that many years ago, I thought that it was kind of ridiculous. However, thinking about that prayer or poem that she has, it is absolutely so true and it has taken three cancer reoccurrences to teach me that.
Cancer is unable to cripple love, kill friendship or suppress memories. I am closer to my family and friends than ever before. The amount of love that I was shown from them and even from people that I didn't know at all was absolutely amazing. I have a newer appreciation for my family and friends in my life, and there is no way that I can put into words how thankful I am for all of them — for every single person that has helped me through the past many years.
It cannot shatter hope, dissolve faith, destroy peace or steal eternal life. My faith is stronger than ever. Even though it was tested MANY times over the past 10 years, I know that God has a reason for putting me through all of it. I am studying to be a nurse because I want to be able to help kids and their families that are dealing with their own battles, just like the great nurses at my hospital helped me. I would not have even considered becoming a nurse if I hadn't gone through what I had. I strongly believe that God used all that I had gone through to guide me down the path that He had set for me.
It cannot silence courage or conquer the spirit. I am who I am today because of the disgusting disease. I was brave and kept going because that was the only thing to do. I chose to not be a victim of cancer not just because I got through it, but because I didn't let it stop me from doing what I loved and living my life. Since I was fortunate to make it out healthy, I am using my experience of battling cancer to make a difference. There is extremely little education and funding for pediatric cancer. We formed the Go for Gabs team and every year since my second diagnosis in 2010, my family, friends and I have done a different race or event to raise money to donate to pediatric cancer research.
I have no idea whether or not I will have to go through all of it again. If I do, though, I sure as heck know that because of all that I have come to learn about what cancer cannot do, I will add to that list that it cannot stop me.