When I think to tell someone about myself, I usually say I'm a cancer survivor, a cyclist, hiker, nature lover, writer, obsessed with travel, passionate cancer advocate, explorer of the world around me, bookworm, proud aunt, and so much more. It also crosses my mind to share that I love life. I prefer to embrace the good parts of life, but I know that the pesky bad also shapes who we are.
How do I know? I've learned this lesson (and thousands of others) simply by embracing life each day, but also from surviving cancer. Diagnosed at 21 with osteosarcoma (an aggressive form of bone cancer), and later with melanoma, I decided then to appreciate each day I was fortunate to live (you 'grow up' pretty fast when you're smacked with cancer as a young adult, realizing that your parents' hugs can't fix that problem). It's not always easy to smile at every moment. I know that. In the 20 years since my diagnosis, I faced my dad's cancer diagnosis and death, the loss of too many friends, treatment side effects, relationship ups and downs, career challenges and more that test my smile, patience and optimism. And yet, I still believe in that positive outweighs negative, that kindness and smiles can change the world for the better, and if we focus on gratitude, we'll be okay.