To know you are a cancer survivor is a pretty awesome feeling. However, an even more awesome feeling is to know that you beat cancer and can now help others do the same. At age 18, I was diagnosed with two different cancers, bone and ovarian. Originally, I came to MD Anderson to be treated for one cancer, but ended up being treated for two at the same time.
I cannot say I enjoyed a single moment of chemotherapy, any of the numerous hospital stays, any of the numerous visits to the emergency room or any of the various surgeries. But I can honestly say the life that emerged post-cancer is one I enjoy very much. It is one I absolutely love because it is a life full of life.
Both cancers left their wounds and scars. Both cancers left me with great losses -- one, the children I had yet to have; the other, my leg and my "normal" appearance.
The day things changed
The day I knew my world would forever be changed was not the day I was told I had cancer. It was the day I was told I would lose my leg. This was the moment when I knew I would never be the same.
In that pivotal moment, I heard the most powerful words I could ever hear. My orthopedic oncologist told me that although I was going to lose my leg, there would be nothing I would not be able to do.
"There are no limits. You can go out and do whatever you want," he said.
Those are the words I have lived by ever since and the legacy my oncologist left to me. It's a legacy I honor each and every day of my life. I honor it by not allowing myself to have limits.
The mountains I've learned to ski, the trails I've learned to run, the white waters I've kayaked, the marathon I soon hope to run -- they pose no limits. They are a challenge I know I can take on. The only limits we have are the ones we set for ourselves.
This life is here so we can enjoy it to the fullest. There are many people at MD Anderson, and in the health care community in general, who work arduously to make sure cancer doesn't win the fight. These are the people to whom I owe my life full of life. They're the ones who in the midst of my darkest hours showed me the type of professional I wanted to be and the place where I would love to work.
Repaying a debt
The constant visits to the dark spaces of radiology lit a little spark within me. The more time I spent in those dark CT rooms, the more I yearned to be on the other side and do for others what was being done for me.
I knew I would get there because, after all, I have no limits. I knew that I, too, would one day know what they knew. I would help patients the way they helped patients and I would do it all here at MD Anderson.
This was a dream that brought me to my knees once I saw it come true. The day I became an employee here is the day I knew I had finally made it home.
I now get to repay this debt of gratitude in the most humble way. For that, I will be eternally grateful.