Joseph Marino, Manny Bouzas, Pat Browne
HELLO FRIENDS AND FAMILY! Sorry this is really long, I just have some things that are really difficult but really important to me to say, and a really important cause to say them for. As some of you may know, as of this past winter break, I have been five years clean, and am finally, officially cured. I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when I was eleven years old, a type of cancer most common in adolescents, a particularly rough and incredibly rare side effect of going through puberty. The highlights of the next few years would be any time I wasn't in a hospital bad, times which were few and far between, and weighed down with the unavoidable reality that they would be ending soon. Chemo after chemo, surgery after surgery, years went by, and things started feeling about as grey as the cubicle I spent all my days in, like the life was being drained out of me in every way possible. And for that I have to thank you, my family, my friends, who somehow kept me going through it right up until the very end. December of 2012, I left my last day of treatment, a day I can finally say with a significant degree of certainty was my last day ever.
As horrible as this was, I don't think I have been able to really understand my own disease until now. Years have passed, and I have had the opportunity to grow up, something I couldn't grasp was not a given when I was 11 or 12 or 13. It wasn't until now, at 19 years old, that I looked up my own statistics and found out they were less than 20%, that my mom finally felt safe enough to tell me that for years she had been holding her breath, just hoping I would live long enough to have made everything I went through worth it. It took years of distance to look past my personal physical trauma, think beyond how mentally scarring it had been for me to be so constantly isolated and angry and afraid, so out of control of my own life. It was not until much later that I was able to grow past my resentment that I had to do it at all and be grateful for the perspective I gained in surviving it.
I am sitting in my school library trying not to cry as I type this, and am probably the only person who is happy to be here. I am so humbled to have had the chance to come to this school, to have had the chance to become more than a child, to become defined by something other than a vicious disease. But the fact is that this is something that defined me. Pretending it isn't is unfair to myself, but even more unfair to the people who won't have the same chance I did, who are still waiting on the research to be found that can save them. Cancer is something that takes and takes and takes; for too many it's their bodies, their lives, their futures, their families. I have been given the chance to let it take something else—my time, my money, my effort—to help make sure this disease no longer has the chance to rob anyone else of the things they value so much more.
That is why I am participating in every way I can in Wake n' Shake this year, as a committee member, a dancer, and most nerve-wracking but excitingly, as a student and survivor speaker. I don't think I'll ever be able to really explain my own experience. It might make me a terrible English major to admit this, but there are things in life that cannot be expressed in words, and can hardly be understood even when they have been lived. Even if I could, it seems wrong to focus on my story when I was one of those lucky enough to get a happy ending. However, the same thing that makes it unfair gives me the chance to ask and explain, so I hope this now ridiculously long post has had some effect on you, and has moved you to join the cause as well.
If you have the time and the funds, please please please take a moment to contribute what you can to the cause. As a personal show of support it means the world to me, and as someone who has been there, it means the world to the patients you'll be saving as well. Thank you so much for bearing with me for all of this, I hope you'll click the link below!
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