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"Survivorship is something that you earn, whether it be during or after your experience."

Survivorship means something different to everyone. It can be a characteristic someone possesses after going through something horrible, or it could mean that they were supposed to die but did not. To me, survivorship should not be a label that you get after you survive. Survivorship is something that you earn, whether it be during or after your experience.

To have survivorship, you must be a survivor and have the characteristics of a survivor. One of the most important things about being a survivor is your attitude. There is a big difference between a survivor and sufferer. A sufferer does not want to try. They give up and lose hope. A survivor keeps a positive attitude and is determined to pull through whatever struggle they are facing. A survivor can be anyone going though a hard time and survived the day or someone surviving a serious battle of two years. They are caring and use their experiences to help others through the same struggle. Ultimately, survivors can go through what sufferers might think is the worst thing that could happen but are strong enough to pull through and become a better person because of it.

Through the past few years, I have met many survivors. Survivors are proud of their journey and are inspired to share their stories to help others become survivors. Recently, I was at a National Honors Society convention, and the guest speaker was Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee. Travis lost both legs and both arms because he came across an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan in 2012. Not only was Travis able to pull through, he travels the country to give motivational speeches and has founded the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to benefit and assist combat-injured veterans. Another example of someone who shows survivorship is my friend, Taylor Reed. She is a survivor of eating disorders and Type 1 Diabetes. Taylor has been able to use her story to help raise awareness by sharing her story through social media, featuring in a video by Acadia Hospital for Eating Disorder Awareness week, and speaking at a National Eating Disorder Association walk. Her latest project was creating a nonprofit organization called Love Me to help bring awareness to mental health, and she is currently working on projects for it. Travis Mills and Taylor Reed are the type of people to be proud of their survivorship and encourage other survivors, like me, to keep a positive mindset.

I am a survivor of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), diagnosed in November 2015 and had my last chemo treatment March 2018. For two and a half years, my life was put on “pause.” I could not do the same things I used to. I had most of my normal life taken away from me. Because of other people supporting me from my community, my friends, and my family, treatment started really positively. I was able to keep this attitude through my whole treatment and used it to reach out to others in situations similar to mine. I keep in contact with a girl the same age as I who had the same diagnosis a few months after mine and give her tips and tricks to help with side effects from treatment. I started the #AddisonProject in my area to raise money to donate money to childhood cancer research because it does not get nearly as much attention as it needs. Survivorship is something I am proud to have and will continue my life sharing my journey. As Selena Gomez sings in her song “Revival”, “What I’ve learned is so vital, more than just survival. This is my revival.” I look forward to “unpausing” my life so I can continue to grow as a person and use it to help others.