It was 9 months after my last round of chemotherapy for my cancerous brain tumor, and I had just finished my first year of college. After receiving the invite in the mail, my doctor (Molly Schwenn) invited me to be one of the speakers. She had just been one of my strongest allies in my battle with cancer, so it was easy for me to say yes.
I love the lineup of speakers in the program. MD, MD, MD, Dave, MD. It would have been even better if they just wrote “Dave” instead of David McGrath. I was only 19, but I knew those letters didn’t make them better speakers. I doubted any of them were going to talk about being an 18-year-old with a cancerous brain tumor, and that’s what I did.
Like the article says, I opened with a poem I wrote, What She Is, and then started to talk about my diagnosis and treatment at UMass. I talked about how I was also went o UMass for my Crohn’s Disease, and how confident I felt with their treatment. The doctors and nurses at UMass made me feel at ease, well informed, and as comfortable one can be in a hospital setting.
Even though I realized how important my top-notch UMass treatment was, I went on to share what I thought was the reason my chemotherapy worked. The love and support I received from my family is the reason I was able to beat cancer. They knew I had to do it my way, and they were behind me every step of the way. They could tell I wasn’t afraid, and made sure not to show any of their fear in front of me.
My friends were the same. I then talked about a 10-year-old I had met while in treatment. His name was Justin, and his tumor was on his brain stem. This kid was 8 years younger than me, and had even more courage. He had been in treatment for well over a year, and had a few remissions and relapses. Still, I saw the same attitude with Justin and his family as I did with me and mine.
We had cancer. But, we still laughed. We still watched the Red Sox. We still did things with our family and friends. As much as we could, we didn’t let cancer interrupt our lives. This is the lesson cancer taught me:
If you can’t live life with love and humor, there really is no point. Life is always going to throw you sucky days. Sometimes you get a flat tire or in car accident. Sometimes you throw up a lot from chemotherapy. Sometimes a person at work drives you nuts. Sometimes your team loses the big game. Sometimes your best friend sues you. But, you make it through and go onto the next day. You watch a funny movie or hang out with a friend, and you feel thankful. No matter what kind of day you had, you still live, laugh, and love.
The most important thing in life is the people you have in yours…
Damn, I’m lucky.