Sunday, June 6 was National Cancer Survivor Day. With 12 million American cancer survivors, there were thousands who acknowledged the day around the country. I celebrated the day with Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) in remembrance of my grandfather. VICC threw a party to celebrate cancer survivorship, with an invitation to the community. Meeting and greeting hundreds who walked through the door filled my eyes with tears thinking of Daddy, but I felt blessed to be surrounded by heroes and heroines who battled cancer and WON.
I was impacted by every beautiful smile, and every survivor’s story stayed with me long after the evening festivities came to an end. I tweeted the event and was amazed at the number of responses from individuals who were not in the room but were being encouraged by the activities as they followed me on Twitter and Facebook. God is so incredible, when I think of the thousands who were not there in Nashville but were moved emotionally and spiritually by the events of the day, organized by VICC’s caring staff who are committed to cancer survivorship.
The keynote speaker, Rachel Lozano, was an inspiration to everyone. Her opening remarks, “Cancer is the absolute best and worst thing that has ever happened to me,” were said with a smile. Needless to say, I was totally caught off guard for a few seconds as she continued to talk about her cancer journey, which began at the tender age of 15. When I heard the age that she was first diagnosed, I closed my eyes briefly and whispered each of my children’s names in a prayer. I also thanked God that I was able to witness an event that was so full of love and gave back unconditionally to the community whether the cancer survivor was a patient of VICC or not.
Rachel Lozano, Glamour magazine’s 2008 Woman of the Year and the only survivor of an Askin's Tumor recurrence following a stem cell transplant, was someone I could not allow out of the room without connecting with her to share her words of wisdom and victory over cancer.
Here is Rachel in her own words:
What makes you passionate about making a difference with your life?
My experience with having had cancer three times as a young adult has greatly impacted my life. I have seen a lot of suffering and death but have chosen to focus on the positive effects that illness and death can have on people. I have an amazing support system of family and friends that encourage me to reach high for my goals and I continue to do so. I want to use my resources—speaking, art, writing, and volunteering—to help and impact others in any way that I can. In three years I should also have my Graduate degree in Art Therapy and Counseling and will be able to touch and help even more people through this path.
When did you decide that your activism is needed now?
I have seen so many people over the years that have helped me tremendously. I decided that it was important to give back and it has been incredibly rewarding. As I touch others, they touch me even more. There is always room in life (and in the cancer community) to reach out and help someone.
What woman has made a significance difference in your life?
There are many women that have influenced my life but my mother definitely stands out. I truly would not be alive today if it wasn't for her. There were years of her life that she has dedicated to my health—endless days and nights in the hospital or sleeping in my room at home and taking care of endless medical things while trying to do everything else. She and my father put everything—financially, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually—into making sure I stayed alive. I am forever grateful to their enormous hearts and love for me. I am also truly thankful for everything my brother did and sacrificed for me.
Could you talk about your background and family…anything you want people to know?
I have a mother, a father, and a brother who is four years younger than me. I truly could not ask for a better family as they are always there for me. I am married to Gabe who is my co-pilot in life. He is one of eight children and has two wonderful parents too. We both grew up in St. Louis and enjoy living here.
If you could change one thing today…what would that be?
I would not change my life. Cancer is the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. It has brought me to so many amazing people and experiences!
Isn’t she lovely? Meeting her in person will be one of my highlights for many years to come. You can read more about Rachel's journey to cancer survivorship at the Adult Bone Cancer Survivor’s website.
Rachel is truly obsessed with life and “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Thank you, Rachel, for visiting Nashville and blessing us with your life’s story.
For more about Rachel go to www.obsessedwithlife.com