This past Saturday, on Oct. 4th 2014, I stood before the Seton Hall University Baseball team describing their contribution to the Vs. Cancer Foundation and specifically to children with cancer in New Jersey. Admittedly, I started in a manner that ran similar to most other speeches I give to teams:
‘It’s pretty cool to stand here before you today seven years cancer-free…’
This time, however, I was wrong. It was eight.
Eight years ago, as an eighteen-year-old freshman in college, I was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer. Stage IV, out of IV. Looking back, I’ve learned that my position as a survivor is, unfortunately, an anomaly.
That weekend, standing in front of a group of 50 players, coaches, and administration, the weight of the situation suddenly dawned on me. Here I was – hundreds of miles from my hometown, in front of one of the most legendary college baseball programs of all time, which was rallying around the idea of helping the next child beat cancer.
The best part about this? Seton Hall is one team of hundreds around the country, with thousands of individuals and tens of thousands of donors getting involved in the mission of saving kids’ lives.
We launched with this radical idea that athletes and communities could change outcomes for kids with cancer- tangibly. We wanted to track how many kids we would help. All while funding game changing research around the country. Seton Hall is one of the many examples that we have done just that.
Believe me- we have had our bumps. I have been called an idiot, and worse, by many. I have been threatened legally. I have put my foot in my mouth, stammering in more locker rooms than I imagined possible. I’ve gotten so lost on the way to events that I’ve missed games. After working off a kitchen table for a year, I still don’t know how to balance a morning commute. We’re learning. We’re growing. And we’re not giving up.
All mishaps pale in comparison to the achievement of our mission from day one: let’s save kids’ lives. Tangibly, let’s impact these kids facing the number one disease-killer of children. And, let’s cure kids’ cancer.
Sadly, we do not have a cure. I’m cancer free, but others are not. Yet. Which means we have not stopped pushing our mission and Vs. Cancer’s work is far from over.
However, this status of ‘cancer free’ does not give me a badge of honor. We have all lost far too many, both inside and outside the childhood cancer world, for me to ever fully revel in the idea that I am here while others are not. However, the sole reason that I am alive is because of the efforts of those before me. Which makes me all the more excited about what Vs. Cancer is doing.
In that locker room in South Orange, New Jersey, upon the realization that I hit the eight-year milestone, I could not help but think of the impact we have had so far. In 2014- we’ve helped 40,617 children with cancer so far. Tens of thousands of children across 20 states have a better chance to BEAT cancer.
That day, in Bruce Springsteen’s home state, I was reminded of his epic lyric: ‘It ain’t no sin to be proud you’re alive.’
Eight years cancer-free and working for Vs. Cancer, I could not be prouder.