There are numerous things that might cause someone to alter their “path” through life. Rather than try to list them all, I’ll share 3 events that have changed my path. The first was when I married my wife. She opened my eyes and heart to what if feels like to be in love. The second is my son. The dreams of what I thought I wanted in life changed for the better the day he was born. If someone told me I had to give my life in order to save either of them, I would without hesitation. The third in this list of life changing events is cancer.
Cancer has the ability to change everything about someone in the blink of an eye. It burns the fear of an early death deep into your mind, a fear that never seems to go away. Just ask a cancer survivor/patient how they’re doing the next time they go in for scans. Don’t be surprised if they seem a little jumpy with their response. Cancer tests your limits in every way. Now, add your loved ones into the mix of watching you suffer through treatment and surgeries, it becomes enough to push a person into some dark places within their minds. The difficult part for me was just that, watching my family suffer as I went through everything. But, within all of this, I found a passion I would’ve NEVER thought I’d have, a passion for helping others affected by cancer.
Now, this didn’t just happen overnight. I first went to a Colon Cancer Alliance summit in Miami, Florida shortly after my first battle with cancer. I was looking for away to learn and become more involved in the Colorectal Cancer community. While there, not only did I meet some amazing people and make many friends, I also got to meet an organization called the Colon Club. This organization produces, what is now, a magazine featuring young adult Colorectal Cancer survivors and their stories. I was approached by a few of the featured survivors and they told me to apply when I got back home. So, I did and to my amazement I was selected for the 2015 issue of the Colondar.
During this time I was also involved with my local cancer centers support group for Gastrointestinal cancer. I was asked by my cancer center if I’d be interested in speaking during their Survivor Day celebration. Nervously I accepted and spoke just two days before I left to travel to the Colondar photo shoot. This was my first time speaking publicly about my cancer story. While speaking, I fell apart. I broke down in tears at least 10 different times during that speech. This moment became a huge learning experience for me. I thought I did horrible, but people were coming up to me afterwards in tears thanking me and telling me how empowering my story was. This was where I realized how sharing my story can help others. That understanding of what my personal story could do was magnified at the Colondar photo shoot.
Throughout my time at the photo shoot, I got to be photographed and given the chance to share my story with the world. I also learned about different ways to become more involved within the Colorectal Cancer community. One of those ways was with an organization named Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC).
Fight CRC provides several ways to get involved. One can help raise awareness of colorectal cancer through the One Million Strong campaign. Change policy and become a colon cancer advocate. Support research by getting involved as a patient advocate or donating to the cause. And, by hosting a fundraiser for colon cancer or simply just donating to the cause.
I became extremely interested in attending an event that Fight CRC puts on each year in March called Call-On-Congress. This is where Fight CRC brings the fight for a cure of Colorectal Cancer straight to Washington, D.C. I wanted to go!!! BUT, I had something else I wanted to do first. I wanted to host a Colorectal Cancer Survivor Day at my local Cancer Center. We discussed doing this in our support group and the cancer center was extremely excited about doing the event.
So, after the Survivor Day at my local Cancer Center, I was off to D.C. Call-on-Congress is a three-day event where colon and rectal cancer survivors, caregivers and loved ones from all over the U.S. unite to make their voices heard! We raise our voices to EMPOWER and ACTIVATE a community of patients, fighters and champions to push for better policies and to support research, education and awareness for all those touched by this disease.
Talk about an amazing experience! After returning home from Call-On-Congress, I was invited to speak at the NC state Cancer Survivorship Summit. I later shared my experiences of all this with my local cancer center, and with their help I was featured in two commercials about my battle with cancer. My cancer center also put ads and articles in 5 different state magazines that shared my story.
During the filming of the commercials, I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time.
The next big step was speaking at Call-On-Congress. Fight CRC reached out to me and asked if I would be able to do this, heck yeah! There was one issue, it was three months after my surgery and I was not doing the best physically. I still made the trip and spoke. I was so thankful I did. This was also my first public speaking after my second diagnoses. So, yes, this had a lot of emotion tied into the speech. It was difficult to make it through everything I wanted to talk about without tearing up. It was also difficult to see everyone else do the same which made it even tougher for me not to cry.
I had a lot going on when I returned home, but I still wanted to do more. The next step was being on the local news and sharing not only my story, but sharing the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer. Talk about being nervous (read my post on being in the news). Next, I became a Grassroots Action Committee member (GAC) for Fight CRC. To be a part of this organization is truly a blessing. This has taken my advocacy ability to another level.
Now, this brings me to this past weekend of helping with the Ambassador Training for Fight CRC. Ambassadors are people ready to make a difference and who become a “face” of those impacted by colorectal cancer.
Like the name of this post says, I have found a very unforeseen passion in the cancer world. Like so many others, I just want to help.