Today, we're sharing a story about Kelly Madigan, a young adult cancer survivor who not only lost a parent to Hodgkin lymphoma, but was diagnosed with the same disease when she was a teenager.
"Cancer." It's hard to remember how I reacted to that word before it became part of my everyday vocabulary and everyday life.
My dad died of Hodgkin lymphoma when I was just 15-months-old, and this was pretty much all I knew about the disease. About two months before my seventeenth birthday, I had an enlarged lymph node removed from my neck, and before I knew it, Hodgkin lymphoma became my world. Instead of finishing up my junior year of high school and studying for my finals, I was having a port put in, undergoing chemotherapy, then radiation treatment. Despite all of this, or because of it, I learned how to truly appreciate life.
My best friend Liz summed it up well when she wrote the quote we now live by: "Live strong, dream big, and never stop smiling." My family and friends surrounding me provided constant positive attitudes and made it easy to keep going through each day. Without the laughs and smiles, I honestly don't know what I would have done.
We celebrated my five-year remission anniversary last year, and as a survivor I have decided to give back. I'm currently finishing my last year of a Masters in nursing program through Vanderbilt University School of Nursing to get my MSN in pediatric acute care. It's my plan to then work in pediatric oncology and help kids as they deal with cancer.
I am also giving back to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) in as many ways as I can. I have done Light The Night Walk (LTN) on multiple occasions in New York and Tennessee. Even now, I am looking forward to my next walk! Last year I also participated in a young adult cancer survivor meet and greet dinner on Long Island, which I enjoyed so much.
As I think back to when I was a patient I remember thinking, "Why me and what do I do now?" But I also remember that I tried to keep this clichéd, yet true, statement in my mind: "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." If you are faced with cancer know that you can, and will be a better person after cancer. And always remember: live strong, dream big, and never stop smiling.
Your support makes a difference. For more information about LLS's vital work, visit www.LLS.org.