Throughout my life I have spent countless hours at MD Anderson, not only as a volunteer but also as a visitor to friends and family members.
A grandmother and a good friend lost their lives to this disease. Another grandmother beat breast cancer, as did an aunt who learned two weeks ago that she's been diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time.
All of these women have profoundly affected my life, each in their own way.
Enjoy living When you hear the news of a loved one's diagnosis, it's like a million pounds of bricks land on top of you. Your stomach drops to the floor and you strap in for a long, emotional ride.
One thing that I've learned from my experience is to never give up. The day-to-day struggle and the possibility of losing your life can be daunting. But through each of these people, I have seen an unconditional love for life.
They lived every day as if it were their last. Rebekah, my inspiration When I was 16 years old, I met a young girl named Rebekah through my brother, Matthew. Over the next year, we grew close. Then, on a day that no 16-year-old girl should ever have to experience, Rebekah was diagnosed with a rare adolescent soft tissue cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma.
Her life was forever changed and so was mine.
For the next four years I stood by Rebekah's side, watching her climb an increasingly steep mountain. She fought her disease for more than four years and heard multiple times, "there's no more cancer in your body," only to be followed months later by news that the cancer had returned.
A special place At MD Anderson, Rebekah was loved by everyone in the Children's Cancer Hospital -- from the youngsters to the nurses and the doctors, even the parents. She was kind-hearted, sweet and funny to everyone she came across. Her radiant personality and smile were contagious and brightened everyone's day.
A picture of her sits on the dashboard of my car, so that I'm reminded of her loving spirit.
MD Anderson is a special place with special people who care about every individual who walks through the door. Volunteering here is a way to witness how precious life is. The fact that you can brighten one person's day just by sitting down and having a conversation, playing a game or reading a book is priceless.
It's amazing to start my week by volunteering in Pediatrics on Monday nights. My brother, Matthew, and I play bingo in the same wing that Rebekah was in just a few years ago.
Interacting with the children and their families is such a blessing. Not only do I get to give back to a place that has helped my friend and family, I get a weekly reminder to enjoy life and live each day to the fullest.