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Scholar Quote: When I doubted whether I could be stronger than this disease, the voice would cry out, "Fight it, conquer it, and live to tell your story."

Out of the 171,146 words in the English language, approximately 19,851 of them start with the letter “C.” Many “C” words come easy to us as toddlers: “cat, car, cow,” your parents would exclaim with hopes that you could comprehend and maybe even say your first words.” Given the plethora of powerful “C” words there seem to be, it’s funny how just two of those words changed my life forever, COVID and Cancer, a daring pair. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I was diagnosed with Stage 2a Lymph Node Cancer. So as all the world population was fighting off a deadly and ravenous virus, I was also fighting cancer.

I endured what many consider the hardest and most harsh medical treatment known to date. Chemotherapy will break down anyone that endures it. And let’s say it broke me in many ways. I lost my hair within two weeks of treatment. Every week, I was nauseous because everything reminded me of the radioactive fluids coursing through my veins in the infusion room. My mouth reeked of a metallic taste every day. Some days my body hurt so much that I couldn’t get out of bed. So yes, in many ways, I was broken. But Chemo did not break me completely. The one thing that consistently got me through my five months of treatment was the small voice in my head saying, “You were meant to fight this fight for a reason.” When I doubted whether I could be stronger than this disease, the voice would cry out, “Fight it, conquer it, and live to tell your story.”

I filled my life with only the good. I love all things performing arts, so every day during my battle, I listened to music and danced around the house, sometimes singing with my family whenever I could. I started to dream of what it would be like to perform on a stage again after quarantine. In these dreams, I began to envision my life after this bump in the road, and I asked myself how I would make a change with my new title as a survivor. And I did. Gratefully on July 1st, 2020, I beat cancer. In many ways, the performing arts healed me. Art saved my life. After much thought, I now have set life goals to pursue only the things that I love and enjoy because life is too short to be pursuing the dreams of others and not your own. Aside from performing, I now know that I love to give back to my community and be an advocate and guide for those that need it.

My journey inspired me to be a guiding light for others around me. In 2020, instead of celebrating my 16th birthday, I raised $20,000 for the Sickle-Cell Anemia fund at the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorder Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to honor the Black community. The Black Lives Matter Movement had reached heights at the time with the brutal death of George Floyd. I couldn’t protest because of my illness, but I wanted to support my community. Sickle-Cell disease primarily affects people of color and is often overlooked and less funded than other diseases. Since the fundraiser, I have dedicated myself to giving to my community. I find joy in speaking and performing to advocate and fundraise for cancer, sickle cell, and other diseases. I love volunteering and giving back to organizations through community service. I intend to keep down this path for the rest of my life! I continue to stand for: a life filled with never-ending knowledge, learning, love, and service to others.

I am a changed person after cancer. It may have battered and bruised me, but it taught me a valuable lesson about “leading with love.” Although the future I envision for myself isn’t set in stone, nor is it a given, I know that it will entail helping others and pursuing something that I enjoy and makes me happy.