Courtney is another in real life friend. Even if I don’t get to see her very often. :(
No really, click over to her blog and check out some of her weddings.
If you are new to this blog, the best place to start is with the FAQs.
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I had my whole life planned out when I was fifteen: I would get straight A’s, perform in every show possible at my performing arts high school, go to NYU, marry my high school sweetheart, become a Broadway star and somewhere in there have three kids. I figured God would go along with my plans because, in my opinion, I had made a pretty great blueprint.
Then it happened. The day one word would forever change my life. Cancer. Me, cancer? No way. I have places to go, things to do, a world to conquer. I don’t have time for cancer. Besides, teenagers don’t get cancer, right?
But I did. And it rocked my world. Where I once felt invincible, I now felt fragile. I thought I had all of the answers, had everything planned out, but now I was on my face before God asking questions. Why? How? What do I do?
Within a week of hearing that word mumbled to me in a gynecologist’s office, I had countless scans, tests and my first major surgery to remove the lemon sized tumor that had made a home below my uterus. I would start chemotherapy a few days later. Doctors were telling me I would most likely never have kids. I would spend much of the next 18 months in the hospital, not at school or on the stage. Instead of dreaming about my future, I worried that I would never see my college graduation, walk down the aisle or hold my newborn baby.
But in those first overwhelming weeks, I also felt faith and hope like I had never felt before. I matured by the hour and God drew me close to Him by the minute. My family and friends were my rock and my team of oncologists and nurses were my new family. Life was much different than it had been earlier that March, but the new was becoming more normal.
I learned that cancer could not define who I was. Sure, it took all of my hair, made me sick and made me miss half of my high school years, but it could not take my joy and it could not erase the girl I was. From early on in my battle, I learned to enjoy each day that was given to me and to find joy in the small moments. Lunch with a friend, dipping my feet in the ocean while watching the sunset, feeling pretty. God had a hold of my life, so while I could not control my future, I knew that I could enjoy the present and make the most out of the life I was given.
A decade later, I look at cancer as a blessing. Did it suck? More than I can tell you. However, the people I met, lessons I learned and the faith that grew out of it have made me the woman that I am today. I would not change one step of the journey God led me on. I discovered what was important in life and my goals were redirected. I did not pursue a Broadway career, but God gave me the best part of my original plan: I did marry that high school sweetheart of mine and two years ago, God surprised us with our sweet son, Isaiah.
photo by Docuvitae
photo above by Jeanetta Penner
Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for the life I have been given and every so often, I look at a picture of that 15 year old girl and want to tell her that she has no idea how great of a life God has planned for her.
Photos by The Youngrens
I would like donations to go to I’m Too Young For This an organization supporting adolescents and young adults affected by cancer.
The organization’s goal is to improve both survival rates and quality of life for young adults living with, though and beyond cancer, while empowering them to achieve their peak potential and get busy living through their survivorship.
My amazing oncologist is the chairman of the board of this organization and it is just awesome. Here are a few crazy facts about cancer in the teen and young adult years:
(1) Each year, nearly 70,000 young adults, aged 15-39, are diagnosed with cancer and roughly 10,000 will die due to the disease.
(2) Over the past 30 years, young adults (15-39) have seen the greatest increase in cancer incidence than any other age group.
(3) The 5-year survival rates in young adults has not improved over the past 30 years on par with other age groups.
(4) The #1 social issue faced by young adults is isolation.
(5) The entire medical community and cancer continuum at large is grossly uneducated as to how to effectively communicate with, diagnose, treat, support and follow-up with YA.
(all facts from the i2y website- more facts and information can be found there)
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As always, for every dollar you donate, you get a chance to win a prize!
This week’s prize comes from Courtney herself…where you can win a custom banner from her SHOP!
Pick your own words and color combo! A $40 value!
For an extra entry, subscribe to this blog and leave a comment in this post letting me know you did. (1 entry max.)
Love on Courtney, help others with cancer.
All from your computer monitor.
It doesn’t get much easier.