I am a cancer survivor. September 2018 marked my 44th year cancer-free. For many years I struggled with that “survivor” title because I am well aware that others cannot share the same. I have always known about my cancer and feel a profound sense of gratitude for that part of my life’s story. Just shy of 18 months old, I was diagnosed with Wilms’ Tumor. At the time, it wasn’t typically diagnosed until children were much older. I was one of the youngest patients who had this type of cancer because the tumor tends to stay hidden, but on September 2, 1974 an accidental fall saved my life. An “angel” intervened that day and 44 years later I am here to tell my story. That fall ruptured the tumor on my left kidney causing me to urinate blood. The next day, my parents were told I would have died that night had they taken me home as the pediatrician suggested. On September 4th, my left kidney was removed and 18 months of chemotherapy followed.
As young as I was, I remember a lot about that time. I remember seeing my mother hold up the cup of blood that filled my little potty seat. I remember my stomach being sealed off with masking tape and “Do Not Touch” instructions attached. I remember all of the fuss of that time like when doctors stuck me in my arms, legs, and hands trying to find a viable vein and I will never forget the nurse who held my hand and told me everything was going to be okay. I remember, years later, how the threat of cancer loomed large when the sight of blood made my mother fear the worst and made me think my cancer had returned when it was only my period starting. I recall the time when I got the devastating news that a young boy in our church died of cancer and I cried like a baby because I didn’t understand why He let me live.
Today cancer inspires the work I do. I wake up every day feeling incredibly blessed and I thank God for this life. As I go about my day, I try my best to encourage those still in the struggle, and remember those who may have lost their fight on earth but won the battle anyway. I fervently believe I will see a cure in my lifetime so that when I say I am a survivor, the pangs of guilt won’t be there anymore. To the little ones who fight every day waiting for a cure, I am living proof that cancer will not win.