The past two year were some of the most challenging times I have ever faced in my young age. At 24 years old just entering the “real” world. A term I hate so much, but a term we all understand. I had just graduated college and was ready to start my big kid job. I was on my way to becoming a California Highway Patrol officer, when my life slammed on the brakes. Let’s be honest, it felt like the e-brake was being pulled while I was going 80mph.
Two years of prior doctor appointments and emergency room visits all started to make sense. I was diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal tumor, Ewings Sarcoma. An 8lb tumor was playing Pac Man on my rib cage. Stanford Medical Center recommended Dr. Mark Berry to perform an extensive thoracic surgery to remove the mass. The surgery was successful, so successful that I thought I was cancer free. During my follow up appointment, less than two weeks after surgery, I was told that I would be starting an aggressive chemotherapy plan. I spent the next year in the hospital, being blasted with chemotherapy. I was admitted in the hospital every ten days for five days and three days (rotating schedule). I am now cancer free as on May 1, 2016 and I have scheduled PET scans every three months currently.
Having cancer has been such a gift, a gift I would return but still a gift. It’s allowed me to see life in a way that people dream of! Recently I returned from an amazing trip with A Fresh Chapter. I had the opportunity to volunteer in Cartago, Costa Rica at a day center for disabled people ages 21-64. At first I was skeptical about volunteering abroad, what could I bring to assist at this facility, would I be of any use? The facility I volunteered at was very privileged especially for where it is located. They had organized activities, materials, and staff that showed up! I really started to think, how am I going to be useful. Well, my experience exceeded any expectations I had set! The participants didn’t speak a word of English but it didn’t stop them from having eyes full of joy, and eager to pull us away to join them on a project.
Costa Rica was incredible, but words really can’t describe my experience volunteering abroad. Actively participating in the daily cultures of Costa Rica taught me innumerable life lessons. I have learned values such as the importance of self-acceptance, collectivity, and love! I am thankful for the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation for sending me on such a life changing experience & supporting me in the opportunity given to me by A Fresh Chapter.