- Posted January 16, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Lance Armstrong speaks out
No Excuse Not to Live Strong
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
The year I turned 16 was pretty busy. I got my braces off. I got my driver’s license. I got cancer.
On Nov. 5, 2003, I sat down at the dinner table and told my mom I had a lump on my neck. I thought nothing of it.
After a month of CT scans, MRIs, IVs and biopsies, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Compared to most, I had an easy ride through cancer. I had four months of chemotherapy (really, only eight actual days of treatment) plus one month of radiation.
I didn’t let cancer interrupt my life. The drugs made me nauseous when I thought about my favorite pizza, but I forced it down (and it never came back up). I caved to cravings like a pregnant woman – I hated mayonnaise before chemo. I only missed one day of school because of sickness. I wore a baseball cap to prom. And by senior year of high school, I beat it.
A teacher introduced me to the Livestrong wristband in my senior year of high school. Since 2004, I’ve worn the band every day. By this point, it’s an indelible part of me. I feel naked without it, and that’s just not comfortable.
Throughout my treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I witnessed so many stories of hope and despair. I saw a little boy running around the waiting room one week, oblivious to the fact he’d have his legs amputated in just a few days to beat the cancer.
A few weeks later, he was still finding a way to run around the waiting room without his legs. He still had a smile on his face. He was living strong.
I received treatment at the same time as a young girl named Alex Scott. She was battling a devastating disease called neuroblastoma. She didn’t want other kids to go through what she endured, so she started a lemonade stand in her front yard to raise money for her hospital.
That little lemonade stand in the Philadelphia suburbs became a nonprofit organization – the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation – that’s raised more than $55 million for pediatric cancer research. Alex died in 2004 at the too-young age of 8. But in her short life, she lived strong.
I’m now an anchor and reporter at a TV station in Charlottesville, Va. Through my station, I’ve spearheaded fundraising efforts for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in my three years here. I’ve met awesome kids undergoing cancer treatment who continue to inspire me to tell their stories and work to end cancer.
I was fortunate to meet 2-year-old Anna Pitts. She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 18 months. Cancer is all she’s ever known. Her parents told me she loves her doctors and loves her trips to the hospital. Her doctor calls her courageous, beautiful and innocent. Anna is living strong.
I was fortunate to meet Alyssa Divers, a 10-year-old who loved to dance and play with her sister. She kept on dancing despite the pain in her legs and the osteosarcoma spreading throughout her body. She lost her battle on New Year’s Eve. But she lived strong.
And so did Ethan Blevins, a 9-year-old boy who described himself to me as “pretty much a normal kid” who loved the Smurfs. He battled leukemia for nearly two years, and he was determined. Ethan lost his fight last summer. But he lived strong.
To me, this band I’ve worn for more than eight years doesn’t stand for cycling, for doping, for honesty, for dishonesty, for shame or for Lance Armstrong.
It stands for strength, for courage, for fearlessness, for pride and for life. It stands for Alex, Anna, Alyssa and Ethan and thousands of other kids and adults around the world.
I will continue to wear it every day. It is a part of me and forever will be.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through the people I’ve met because of my own personal ordeal, there’s just no excuse not to live strong.