Good and Difficult Coexist
6 years ago from today, I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. It is so easy to think of the hard moments during that season. I remember walking with my mom to the parking lot at the Duke Cancer Center in silence after the doctor shared the pathology report because neither one of us knew what to say to the other. We ended up getting very lost which if you know our (mostly her) history with directions, this is no surprise. There were moments of fear like when I became septic. The nurse pressed a button and code blue came over the speaker, my mom was directed out of the room, and I was moved to the ICU. There were moments of normality like going to get chipotle with my parents and brother the night before my surgery and stopping at a gas station to get ice cream during a snowstorm. Even after the thyroidectomy had removed the source of the major physical challenges I was facing, I had to learn how to live without an “optional” organ that does a lot for your body and process a cancer diagnosis.
It was easy to think about the things I lost due to the time that I was sick and to picture how my life would have been different. I lost the sense of invincibility that comes with being a teenager and was exposed to the fragility of life and impact on our health. This was all while my peers and classmates were going to swim practice and re-taking the SAT around me. In those moments and many after, it was easy to label it as hard. People would joke saying, “this will make one good college essay.” But now more than ever, I have clarity on how hard and good can coexist. Some of the hardest moments in my life thus far, for both myself and my family, continue to also bring really good things into my life. And because I am the author of my own story, with a lot of help from above, I can choose to focus on those good things especially today.
My exposure to the importance of health introduced me to a career that I find deep purpose and passion within. This is the field of Clinical Research. The truth is that we all experience the benefits of this industry every single day as CVS and Walgreens would literally be empty without the clinical research process. This industry has allowed me to begin a career where I learn something new every single day and leave knowing that I am contributing to the future of medicine. This is a future with more therapies, devices, and treatment plans for all people. I am here today because I benefited from research and it would not be a stretch for me to say that you are too.
The hard moments also led me to the Ulman Foundation. With a group, I ran from Baltimore to San Francisco raising money and awareness for young adults fighting cancer. Along this journey, there were many tough moments among many joyful moments. One example in particular that stands out was meeting my friend Mary. Mary has three young girls as well as terminal cancer. She has participated in many clinical trials and has also lived 4 years past when doctors said she would. Mary opened her house for us to sleep and her porch for us to chat. In those moments, she proved to me that the happiest people are not simply those without hard moments. Mary faces just about as hard as it gets, but she chooses to make the small moments good.
Another person the 4K for Cancer introduced me to is one of the most respected and loving guys I have had the pleasure of getting to know. Collin and I first met one afternoon as teammates on different routes. Fast forward several hours later, we learned that we had a lot in common including that I had just signed a lease at his current apartment complex in Charlotte. Then just weeks before our departure, we all received an email that our teams had been combined and we’d now be on the same route. Like me, he was signed up for 4K in 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19. Collin was riding for his childhood best friend that was diagnosed, who happens to live in that apartment complex too, among many other people affected. I joke that I would go through every one of those tough moments again to meet Collin but the truth is, I would.
Just the other day, I went to the eye doctor after Collin highly encouraged me to. His suggestion was due to my consistently poor performance in the everyday life eye exam of not being able to see things that he can. Everyone is familiar with the official process of an eye exam where you look at the same letters and the doctor presses buttons and asks which is better. The doctor is making the slightest adjustment that completely changes what you see. However, what you are looking, the letters, stay the very same. The lens you are looking through changes what you are able to see allowing you to focus and see something different. This is just a small example that we can apply to our our own situations. We can choose what lens we are looking through everyday and completely change what we see even if the letters or situation doesn't change.
Good and hard can coexist. That hard moment 6 years ago of being told they found cancer will follow me at every doctor's appointment and in many other aspects for the rest of my life. But, that moment also planted a seed of passion that continues to grow and bring new fruit. So today, I will focus on the good that came with the hard and I think this is a lens we could all see through.