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"Fate whispers to the warrior, 'You cannot withstand the storm,' and the warrior whispers back, 'I am the storm.' I am that survivor: a warrior."

Storms are a part of life; they are inescapable. My pastor is fond of saying that you are either in the middle of a storm, just left one or are about to enter one. I am smack in the eye of life’s storm. But just as hurricanes shape the beach landscape, adversity molds character. So how is being a cancer survivor shaping me? Mostly it chisels away at the things that aren’t as important anymore: getting an A in precalculus, wondering if I am starting in the volleyball game, or deciding what I’m wearing to school. Cancer survivorship highlights what is important: spending time with my family, relying on my faith, eating ripe peaches from our tree, snuggling my dog, reading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.

I’d like to say my experiences have made me more focused on my future, but maybe surviving cancer is the wind of change – to turn the weathervane in my head a different direction – to blow me to a different course. Isn’t that what learning and going to college is about? Discovering what interests you and letting your experiences lead you? I don’t think the person I am today is yet to be defined. The artist isn’t done with me yet.

Surviving cancer means I have a future. I get to study zoology or biology, but more specifically learn about animals. I see myself ultimately working at an animal rescue facility, in the field doing animal observation and research, or in a zoological or aquatic facility. I have always loved animals. I have pets at home and am notorious for bringing home stray cats and dogs. I am addicted to nature shows on TV and binge-watching Planet Earth on Netflix. I will soon begin an internship with a veterinary clinic, but I would also like to volunteer at the zoo or at an animal rehab facility.

I see myself ultimately working to connect animals and humans to support healing and hope. Support animals are frequently used to help patients; having a positive mental attitude is one of the strongest weapons against diseases like cancer. I also recently learned of a college program that studies service dogs to determine which breed makes the best service dog. Understanding how animals relate to each other and to humans can help benefit both by building relationships. These kinds of projects interest me, as I truly believe animals enrich the human quality of life.

Survivorship means I will always have the burn of fatigue behind my eyes that not having my thyroid leaves me. Because I will depend on synthetic thyroid hormone medicine for the rest of my life, I don’t know if I will ever feel fully awake and energetic again. The lesson that I learned from surviving cancer is best illustrated in a quote from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Challie Mackesy, “Is your glass half empty or half full?” asked the mole. “I think I’m grateful to have a glass,” said the boy. “Always remember you matter, you’re important and you are loved, and you bring to this world things no one else can.” This is parallel to my own story: I am blessed to have been given a chance at a full glass of life.

Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm,” and the warrior whispers back, “I am the storm.” I am that survivor: a warrior. At least I want to be, but some days I just don’t feel like it. Mostly I just want to punch the storm in the nose.