No one ever thinks they will be the one to hear those words. I can assure you I did not.
And as with most cases where one's life is forever changed without a moment's notice, it often follows the somewhat inevitable sentiment that: "Everything happens for a reason." While surely predictable, I have come to realize that not only does this thought seem to be a fallback when the words to express these new, raw emotions are difficult to find or seem inadequate; but there is also a stark difference in perspective when I was the one having to come to grips with the unknown and how it would all play out in my life. My initial reaction was anger. I questioned why it had to happen and I displayed visceral emotions I never knew existed inside of me. My maturity, or rather immaturity, about the entire diagnosis shined through, as I did not know how to handle something I knew so little about at age 22. I had just graduated from the University of Miami (FL) and played basketball at the highest level of college athletics. This was not supposed to happen to me.
The Gift of Cancer, i.e. The Silver Lining
After my two battles with Hodgkin's lymphoma (2007 & 2013), I had hoped that I was able to give others strength, courage and inspiration to fight their own battles. This is not about the cancer or even me for that matter. My path -- which is not one I would ever have asked for or desired -- has allowed me to connect with others on a level that is more significant than the bad cells who made my chest their home for years. I had to accept my circumstances. I had to stop asking, "Why me?" and begin to adjust my focus to, "Ok, well, why not me?" I would do this a million times over so I would not have to watch anyone in my family go through it. The entire process of dealing with cancer is something that will never grow old because it is so real. Cancer not only attacks your body but plays a huge role in shaping your mental stability. My purpose has been defined in a way I never could have imagined, but I gladly accept.
I continually asked myself, "How can I take what I have learned in my life thus far to help and encourage others to lead a healthier lifestyle?" Our struggles do not need to align to understand a hardship. We all have had various battles we have faced and no matter what it was, it changed us. To me, no medicine has relieved stress, both mentally and physically, like a good workout has done for me. I wanted to have a direct impact with encouraging others towards a healthy lifestyle with proper fitness & nutrition. That desire led me to becoming a Personal Trainer and creating workout guides for the home or the gym. I have learned that shocking my body with various styles of workouts like resistance training, high intensity intervals, cardio & yoga prevents monotony and offers a multitude of other benefits by employing all muscles, joints, tendons and mental relaxation. That type of exercise is also paired with clean eating and plant-based nutrition to allow everything to work against these cancer cells as a cohesive and strong unit. It is not always obvious, but sometimes we tend to keep ourselves from being productive simply by not holding ourselves accountable for our actions, with our mind and body being the first places that are affected.
It is understood that we all have our comfort zones and when we step out of them, we count the seconds until we can get back into what we know. But what if we throw caution to the wind and embrace change? As crazy as life can get with tragedy, think of how POWERFUL we can feel with positive change. We feel differently. We act differently. We think differently. Most importantly, we will carry ourselves differently. After we turn our progressions into habits, what happens? We start to BELIEVE. We say things and do things that turn us into a better version of ourselves. It's time to overcome your insecurities and conquer your self-doubt fearlessly ... just imagine what is waiting for you...
Now, at age 31, if I have learned one thing from my health history, it is that cancer does not discriminate. Eat well. Exercise often. Call your family. Laugh a lot. Love hard. Life can be the best medicine.