At 16 years old you are concerned about a lot of things – school, clubs, friends, drama, peer pressure, boys, and of course your image. If you had told me then that none of that would really matter I would not have believed you. In July of 1998 I was diagnosed with stage one ki-one non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My family became a sponge for endless recommendations, consultations, diagnoses and information. It wasn’t just me who had cancer, WE had cancer. And the next three months of treatment, hair loss and illness happened to all of us. Without my mother Devi, my father Rob and my sister Ali and the rest of my family and friends, I would not be here today to tell the story of success.

I was treated at Schneider’s Children’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish in New Hyde Park, Long Island, New York. I got “dressed up” to go to the hospital. I reported to my friends and family on how I was doing. I shaved my head as it started to fall out. I made a pledge to help others with this disease. I committed to surviving. And yes, there were dark days, but I never let the idea of beating that disease leave my heart, mind or spirit for too long.

It has been two years since I was told that I never had to go to the oncologist EVER again. It’s been seven years since I was told I was “CURED.” It has been eight years since I joined Relay for Life and the recorded breaking Team Pixie Dust. And it was only this morning, when I woke up, that I appreciated the gift of another day. I am often heard saying I wouldn’t change a thing of my past, that surviving cancer is what has helped to define me as a person and made me the individual I am today.

With hope, dedication and Relay, I am assured that we will all be in a better place on day. I Relay because I join people around the world to celebrate those who have survived cancer, remember the people we’ve lost, and fight back by supporting the lifesaving mission of the American Cancer Society. This is my 8th year at Relay with Team Pixie Dust, graciously lead by the Gross family in memory of our friend, mother, sister and inspiration, Diane Gross. It has been an amazing journey and we are very excited to add another Relay tomorrow at Alvin P. William Memorial Park in Woodbridge, NJ. Please consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society through my Relay for Life page.

Cancer once defined me. I was the “girl who had cancer.” I was bald or had a wig. For years after, I was titled a “cancer survivor” and it was synonymous to my name and my identity. Today, twelve years later, people I know in this stage of my life may not even know that I had cancer. That I am an extreme advocate of early detection, fair treatment and continuous research. That I will always know what being different is like. That my scars are my battle wounds. That I am stronger than can ever be defined by a title or a disease.

“Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it couldn’t be done, Don’t let nobody ever tell you that we couldn’t be one, Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it shouldn’t be sung, Don’t let nobody ever tell you you’re the only one…” ~ Michael Franti