Today I am sharing some stories that will tug at your heart a little. We were asked by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Light the Night Campaign to share personal stories about cancer, and I have a few… The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has partnered with Sylvan Learning Society through Light The Night, with a commitment to raise $250,000 and to donate more than 12,000 hours of free tutoring services in nearly 200 communities nationwide to help young blood cancer patients and their families with the transition back into academics.
When thinking about cancer I immediately think about my beautiful friend Tanya. I walked my first cancer walk in Brighton when she was a little girl fighting this disease. She brought you all a little message today! Tanya is truly an inspiration.
We could all use a little reminder sometimes that its important to be kind to others because everyone we meet is battling something….
Hello! My name is Tanya Kottong. I am 22 years old and have been cancer free for 13 years. In May of 1998 I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. From then on, I was homeschooled until second grade. When I went back to school I was extremely self conscious. I was made fun of for not having hair and looking like a boy. The University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor sent in one of the nurses from the pediatric oncology team to my classroom. She gave a presentation explaining to all of the other children what cancer is, and it is not contagious, like kids think everything is. As an 8 year old girl, this presentation changed my life. The kids stopped making fun of me and it allowed me to grow and be confident in myself again. After I finished treatment, I had to continue to attend follow up doctor appointments for 10 additional years. Even though I hated going, these doctor appointments gave me comfort in knowing that I was still okay. A few years ago the doctors officially cleared me and sent me on my way, I was officially a survivor!
Since then, I have used my horrible experience with cancer to benefit the lives of others. The past three years I have volunteered at a summer camp called Camp Quality. Camp Quality is a camp for kids from the ages of four to 18 who are suffering, or have suffered, with cancer. I went to the camp as a volunteer to get paired with a younger child going through the same struggle I experienced at a young age. The camp is one week long and you get to be paired one-on-one with a child for the week. It is an amazing bonding experience. The camp is located on Lake Ann in Traverse City, Michigan and it is incredibly beautiful. There are so many things for the kids to do all week! They provide high ropes courses, a water front with boats and water slides into the lake, arts and crafts, putt-putt, and so much more. The motto of the camp is ‘letting kids with cancer be kids again.’ Although I did not attend as a child going through cancer, the camp helped me just as much as an adult. It is truly amazing the amount of strength and how happy a young child can be in a situation that would terrify anyone.
Whoever is reading this, wherever you are, do not give up. As horrible and scary as cancer is, it can be beat. Having my friends and family by my side, supporting me and treating me as normal as possible is what really helped me through. A simple hand made card can brighten someone’s day a whole lot more than you would think. Whether you are battling personally, or standing by a loved one who is, do not stop fighting.
Oh, and do not buy a wig! They are hot and itchy, plus your bald head is a beauty mark telling the world just how much of a fighter you are. 🙂