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At some point our life changes. Sometimes the change is so big, so dramatic, that we are left completely impacted and inevitably we ourselves are changed forever. Cancer has had a surprisingly positive influence on my life. I have been affected personally, academically, socially and physically.

Cancer has caused a dramatic change in me. I have been forced to grow up and reach limits in my life I never knew existed. By being diagnosed during my first few months as I turned 17, I learned that I was still considered by many a child. Sadly, the experiences I went through forced me to put fairytale endings on hold and become strong, like an adult instead of weak and naive, like a child. This burst of growth pushed me to better understand that any situation in life can be seen with a positive outlook. Thinking as a child I would only have seen pain and sadness, but with eyes that understood I saw opportunity to do a million acts of good. I have also learned the difficult task of living in the moment. Any time an idea is brought up, unlike the old me, I jumped at the chance to experience life. Procrastination was a common trait I used to be associated with. I always felt that I had the world on a string and that opportunities could be passed up because there was always tomorrow. I realized that when you are always focusing on tomorrow you miss out on great moments of joy in the present. Living in the present is bringing me to a fuller and happier life. My personal journey has led me to believe in all the little moments and appreciate everything life has to give. One day at the hospital, I was experiencing a time of true unease, but suddenly I saw a girl around the age of five running joyously to her mother. All that warmed her little head was a kerchief and in that moment I knew that everything would work out okay. It only takes a moment for you to change. Moments can bring such great insight and lead us to grow into such great people. From that moment I became a courageous girl on a hopeful mission. Through cancer I have started to turn into the person I have always wished to be.

Likewise, cancer has caused a wondrous shift in me academically. I have become more determined academically. If I miss any time at school I am now quick to catch up on notes, assignments and tests. I have grown in my academic pursuits. Now more than ever I want to fight to reach my highest goal. I have been driven all along my academic career but this new drive has led me out of my comfort zone to truly confront my academics straight on. I have also begun to participate more in my school community. Being involved in the greenhorns, prefects, yearbook and student council makes me feel better. As cancer becomes a dominant part of my life, I have become a more focused academic.

Similarly, socially, cancer has amazed me at its positive impact. My friends and I have grown even closer together, if that were possible. I tell them everything, from how I am truly feeling to absolutely everything I hope to achieve in the future. Cancer has solidified my already existing bond with my friends. It has given me an exceptionally deep connection to friends as we are all going through this journey together. I was shy, but I have slowly grown into myself and gained the confidence to showcase myself with others as I presented a very personal speech about my experience with cancer with the Look Good Feel Better program. Cancer has catapulted me into the world of public speaking and taught me how sharing oneself with others can make a world of difference in someone else's life. I have been told that I am an inspiration to others. Living with cancer has allowed me to become a solid presence of hope in other's lives. People take notice of the good I aspire to be and it leaves me feeling as if I am truly accomplishing something. My social life has pleasantly strengthened as cancer takes root in me.

In a similar manner, the physical side of my life has also been adjusted by cancer. I have begun to push myself to my physical limits. As a competitive dancer cancer has greatly affected the amount of energy I am able to put into dance. I push myself to use every ounce of energy to do my personal best. This push has turned me into a better and more dedicated dancer. The physical battle I am going through just pushes me to dance harder because I never want to give up doing the one thing I truly enjoy. In addition, I have learned to embrace the physical side of myself. During treatments physical aspects of my body changed and I didn't always see the girl I used to be when I looked in the mirror. I learned though that who I am is not just skin deep and I would still always be myself. Scars are not to be covered up, but are to be embraced as part of what is making me who I am today. Physically, cancer has brought me to become more confident in myself.

The big change in my life that occurred when I learned I had cancer has brought me to an astonishingly better place in my life. Personally, I have been enlightened into a new way of thinking. Academically, I have grown in my quest for knowledge. Socially, my relationships have strengthened, and physically I have embraced and pushed myself. Furthermore, cancer does not define me, but enhances me into a girl that I never knew I could become. Though I am still struggling, the positive influence outweighs the negative. I have learned to turn this bout of bad news into an exceptional opportunity.

Written by Katie Darby

Sadly, Katie lost her battle with Ewing sarcoma in 2012 believing a cure would be found.
She will remain forever in our hearts.