I am fortunate to say that I had great health as a child and teenager. My parents would only serve me fresh organic food and make sure I took my vitamins every day. I had so much energy and always stayed active. It was not until halfway throughout college that I got a sense of what health complications really looked like; my life completely turned upside down.
It all started in the beginning of my sophomore year. The second semester something frightening happened to me. I started to experience unforeseen anxiety, developed rashes all over my chest and back, and had night sweats which caused me to wake up in damp pajamas in the middle of the night. I knew something in my body was not right. It was not until a lymph node the size of a golf ball popped up above my collarbone during one of my Spring semester night classes that I started to become very concerned. I was very confused and immediately dismissed myself from the room, went to the lavatory, took a photo of myself in the mirror and sent it to my mother. She suggested I go to the medical center on campus.
After taking blood tests and receiving the reports back, I was told that nothing was wrong and I was told that my body was probably fighting off a virus. They had suggested I visit an ENT at home just to make sure I was okay. During my visit with this doctor, I went through a series of exams including: a nasoendoscopy, MRI, and fine-needle biopsy. The results: negative, negative, and negative. Even my internist said there was nothing wrong with me. I thought this was peculiar. I let my fears release themselves as I complied to the medical professionals.
Still, deep down I knew something was wrong. My parents agreed. I figured it would be a good idea to get further testing before going back to school and traveling abroad for a semester with my classmates. I went to another ENT and was told within seconds that the size was abnormally large and that the area it was in was concerning. He said I needed to go in for surgery, that I could not let it wait any longer. Although I was afraid to go under the knife and risk other complications, I knew that it was the best thing for my health. I scheduled a biopsy, and a week later my pathology report came back positive. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma the first week of what was supposed to be my junior year of college and had to start chemotherapy right away. I was 19, and was not ready for this battle. Just a few days after I turned 20, I started treatment, and ended it in the beginning of 2018.
It took a long time to process everything, but with time, I realized that cancer was my greatest blessing.
It happened for, not to, me. Although I knew that it was going to be the most challenging time of my life, I used this season as an opportunity to discover who I was meant to be on this earth. Through faith, I learned how to persevere. And with time, I embarked on a journey to help others see the purpose behind pain.
It did not come easy, but when I finally started to fight my fears and slowly share my story with friends and then strangers, I was floored by everyone’s encouragement. I knew I had to impact and inspire a wider audience. I then made the decision to share my unique perspective and wisdom. I embarked on an initiative and decided to write a book, Power to Persevere: Inspiring Stories to Help You Get Through Challenging Moments. It was just published in December 2019.
I knew deep down that we all face hardship, so I decided to share stories on how others have dealt with cancer, whether they lost someone from it or were diagnosed with it, limb loss, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and homeless in addition to my personal experience. I also share advice from health professionals, life coaches, spiritual directors, and other certified professionals. I also include little reflection questions that I asked myself throughout treatment and a space in the back to write and author the new story you want to share about your life.
Here are some of the tools that helped me:
Praying and meditating
Learning how to fuel myself through food
I am making it my mission to be the person who I wish I had to look up to during my fight to life.
I want others to remember one thing: your life is worth living. I always think to myself, “If I can beat death, I can do anything.”
And the truth of the matter is, anyone can do anything. Remember, challenging moments are meant to mold and shape you. In order to grow, you have to go through pain. It is when you start to believe and trust in the pain that you will persevere.