One month into my freshman year of college at the University of Florida, I lost my feeling of invincibility. After weeks of looking for an answer to my worsening symptoms like night sweats, extreme itchiness and rapid weight loss, I finally had one – Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My doctor promptly reassured me that this mostly curable cancer was just a ‘bump on the road’ to better and brighter things. Fate had a different path in store for me. Five years later, after 63 nights in the hospital, over 600 hours of chemotherapy, two bone marrow transplants, 18 days of radiation, and enough relapses to stop counting, my journey with cancer goes on. More importantly, my life as a soon-to-be University of Florida graduate with a 4.0 GPA goes on – and that’s definitely something worth fighting for.
The hardest part about living with cancer is trying to plan for your future. With so many unknowns, I’ve learned to live for each day and savor every moment. Despite this, as a young person trying to find my place in the world, it seemed impossible to avoid thinking about my future. I often questioned, ‘why continue to work towards a college degree when I may never see it to completion?’ Yet, I ultimately found that just as I couldn’t give up on my health, I couldn’t give up on my future. That isn’t to say there weren’t obstacles. Many advisors, professors, and people close to me encouraged me to drop courses or give up on entire semesters in order to focus on my health. Nonetheless, I persevered and managed to earn a 4.0 GPA from the College of Business and graduate only a year behind my peers.
The one thing most people forget to mention about being diagnosed with cancer is the positive outcomes. At 23, after 5 years of battling cancer I am thankful and proud to have married my soul mate, started the Live For Today Foundation to help other young adults with cancer and now be able to fulfill my lifelong dream of graduating from college with high honors. None of these accomplishments would have happened without my unique perspective on life in the face of death, the support of my family and friends, and all of the Gator Nation cheering me on.
As I move into the next phase of my life, I look forward to sharing my story and helping other young adults with cancer to find their purpose. I don’t know how many more days I will be given, but I will use every one of them in search of fulfillment. In preparation for graduation this coming weekend, I am inspired by the words of Booker T. Washington, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
Founder & President