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.