For more than a year, I've been following the fight my friend Becky's daughter, Kristen, and her family have waged against ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is a tough diagnosis for anyone to receive, but Kristen was diagnosed with a particularly rare and aggressive form of the disease as a student at Appalachian State University.
Kristen received a devastating diagnosis, but she didn't let it destroy her. In fact, she said "this fight with cancer didn't bring me down, but only lifted me up." She has spent the past two years fighting with everything she has -- through 47 rounds of chemo, 3 surgeries and experimental trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But Kristen also used that time to get busy living - intensely, wide open at full throttle -- recently going skydiving! And through it all she has maintained a positive attitude not only keeping herself and her family up for the fight, but also inspiring and uplifting friends and even people she has never met who are following her story.
On June 10th, Kristen's doctor told her she had put up "one hell of a fight," but there was nothing more that could be done. The same day she received this news, Kristen wrote:
This is it. I did put up one hell of a fight. I don't want to feel like I lost though. Cancer did not win. If I had lost, I would've came away empty handed. I am not empty handed. I'm more of a person now than I ever was. It was quite the journey, these past two years. I learned so much. So much about myself and about others. So much about life and how it's suppose to be lived. I met so many amazing people along the way and made lifetime friends. I grew closer to my family and made some of the best memories that I hope will never be forgotten. Some of my best days were spent fighting cancer. Doing things that I probably would have never done if I hadn't been diagnosed.
This is a lesson all of us should learn because none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. And even those who are blessed with many decades of tomorrows too often let them pass by without truly living.
Over the past two years, Kristen’s mother, Becky, has exhibited faith almost beyond my comprehension. She wrote this week,"Its more than I can bare sometimes to not only watch Kristen feeling so sick and in pain, but to watch her Dad and brothers hurting and their hearts breaking," she also wrote about God's love. "I trust and believe in God's great healing power. And I too, like Kristen, never give up and I never stop having faith in what my God can do. I love Him and I know He loves Kristen and He is going to take care of my baby girl in whatever she may be facing."
In Kristen's battle I found an incredible story of faith, strength and determination. Kristen touched my heart and has taught me lessons I hope I will never forget. Please read what this amazing young woman has written about how cancer taught her to live life to its fullest every day.
Cherishing Every Moment
The fear of dying shouldn't be the only thing that makes a person cherish every moment in life. I guess this journey has taught me a lot in the last year. I've learned to cherish every little thing, whether it seems important at the time or not. Truth is, you're never going to get that exact moment back, so enjoy it while you can.
The fear of dying also shouldn't be the only thing that makes a person really live. I'm not talking about the everyday life, same thing day after day. I'm talking about really living. Going out and doing things you never thought you would do. Conquering fears and having the time of your life while doing it. Doing things that you'll never forget as long as you live, whether it be a meticulously planned backpacking trip or a spontaneous trip to the beach. Do the things you really want to do while you still have the ability to do them.
When I was a senior in high school, one of my teachers had my class make a bucket list of things we wanted to accomplish in life. At the time, I didn't take this assignment as seriously as I should have. Now, I see how important a bucket list can be and I really appreciate the importance of that assignment. I've added more things to my bucket list in the past few months then I could have ever imagined. Surprisingly, I'm checking things off one by one, as I accomplish the things I never thought I could or would have even attempted.
I don't take anything for granted these days. I cherish every moment, whether it be alone time when I get to take in the beauty around me or time I spend with family and friends. Cancer is perceived as such a horrible thing, but I guess for me it hasn't been all negative. It's taught me so much and I've met some pretty amazing people along the way. Life is always a journey and I'm growing each and every day.
Kristen recently wrote that she doesn't want anyone to ever say she lost her fight with cancer::
I never want to hear anyone say that I lost my battle with cancer. I did not. I won. I won because I received so much more out of this fight than cancer did. You may have taken my health, my organs, and my body, but you didn’t take my spirit, my attitude, or my love. And because of that, I won this fight. Not cancer.