It was a Thursday night, Jan. 20, 2011. I was sitting in bed finishing up my AP Calculus homework for the night, with my crutches leaning up against my bed (at the time still oblivious and confused as to why I was given crutches to begin with) … and within seconds, life changed.
What seemed like a normal Thursday night for a 16-year-old junior in high school, quickly turned in a different direction. I had cancer. This word: Osteosarcoma became a well-known and quite often word used in the Newman household. Still oblivious, confused, and unclear on what this all meant, I was set to start chemotherapy the next day at 8 am. Within 10 hours of learning I had cancer, I had no time to digest this reality. I was completely controlled – I was told what I could and couldn’t eat, when I had to be at the hospital, what I could and couldn’t do/participate in, etc. It was the first time I truly felt lifeless, yet there was never the option of or even thought that my life could possibly end, it wasn’t even something that crossed my mind to be honest. I began to tap into an unknown inner reserve that was perpetuated inside of me. I had to accept the battle that was thrown at me instead of continually trying to fight it off.
As with any race, whether walking or running, competing in a competitive sport, or even fighting for your life, taking a timeout is never an option; the fight has to inevitably carry on. I may not have had much control at all that year or even other times in my life, but I’ve always known I have to keep going. My heart is beating, yes at a rapid and abnormally high rate due to CHF (congestive heart failure) that I was told I had due to the toxic doxorubicin chemotherapy infusions. Does heart failure suck, yea… it’s not ideal and there are days where I can feel the rhythm of the beats throbbing in my head. However, lately I’ve tried to acknowledge my abnormal rapid heart rate as a reminder that it’s not giving up, and neither should I. I’d like to think my heart is saying, “hey you, I’m still beating, I’m doing my part to keep you alive, so don’t ever forget that and you do your job of actually living this life”.
“Don’t let a bad day trick you into thinking you have a bad life.“ —Allie Newman
Life gives us curveballs, but only the strong are able to “catch”/receive these curveballs. Stay strong, stay positive – everything (for the most part) is mental. The official definition of willingness is, “the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness”… so the way I’ve interpreted this, willingness is a way to approach certain circumstances in life and really approach life in general in a new way, a new light, a new mindset; ultimately, a new perspective. Everything in life starts with you, and ends with you. I don’t care what your circumstances are, you still are in charge of how you react to whatever those circumstances may be. Reality is, no one can make you move, no one can make you “willing”. In my opinion, that’s a pretty astounding power we possess as humans. I reiterate the point that it’s all completely circumstantial. Life isn’t fair (I think we can all agree on that statement now more than ever as we endure this pandemic).
We all face different hardships and misfortune, but no matter what adversity you may be facing, you still have the power to react to that circumstance, always. That power will never disappear. What I’ve realized, though, is the fact that we must identify and acknowledge these circumstances in order to even begin to have this willingness to react. Don’t ever forget the power of the mind and the power of positivity. I hope you all read this and remember to be grateful for this moment, for your heart beating, and for the exact circumstance that God has specifically put you in right now… because even though it may seem like the end of the world, it was actually meant to be specifically for you. He doesn’t make mistakes, and I pray that each of you stay strong each and every day with the knowledge that He has created a plan for you that is greater than anything you could have ever imagined.
“All I can ask is for whoever is (still) reading this, to simply take a second to smile and give yourself a minute to truly reflect on all the good in your life right now.“ —Allie Newman
Cancer changes people. It sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, hopes more desperately, loves more deeply, and lives more passionately. At this point, all I can ask is for whoever is (still) reading this, to simply take a second to smile and give yourself a minute to truly reflect on all the good in your life right now. Appreciate the things you might overlook: food, a roof over your head, a job, or even the struggle you’re going through, appreciate it. Remember to appreciate your family and friends. Call them to tell them you love them, even if it wakes them up. Nothing could, nor ever compete with love, ever. Life will continue to throw curveballs at you, don’t fight them, it’s only going to waste energy. Have the strength and willingness to see them, accept them, then react to them.
A lot has changed since January 20th, 2011 – whether it was a happy day or a monumental milestone: I graduated high school, I’ve jumped off cliffs, I’ve gotten tattoos (sorry dad), I popped champagne in Vegas for my 21st birthday, I’ve drank hand grenades on Bourbon Street for NYE, I’ve explored the tropical adventures of Costa Rica, I’ve sung Sweet Home Alabama more than I can count, I’ve lost my voice at half a dozen Chainsmokers concerts, I’ve gotten blisters from walking the grounds of a music festival, I adopted the most perfect pup, I gained friends that are like sisters, I had the best undergraduate experience and graduated college (roll tide), I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve loved, I’ve watched the sun set and rise over the Pacific Ocean countless times, I’ve met people that have impacted my journey in the most unexpected and astounding of ways; I’ve done and felt things that were never on my radar or seen as plausible a decade ago.
Today is a reminder for me how incredibly fast life can change. Even after 12 full months of chemotherapy, a total hip/femur/knee replacement, plus 10 “maintenance” and reconstruction surgeries since 2011, a relapse of the cancer in my lung that resulted in the removal of most of that lung… I’m here and I’m officially 7 years cancer free!
Life is an endless journey; don’t forget to enjoy all of the joys it brings and also all of the strength it can give you when facing trials or hardships. As I often say, “just keep moving on – movin’ on this crazy rollercoaster journey I like to call life” (as poppa Newman never fails to remind me: “it’s not just life, it’s not just love; what is it? It’s REAL. Real love, real life, don’t ever forget that”) – cheers to today, to tomorrow, and to every blessing along the way.
“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” –1 Corinthians 13:7-8
Resilience. Pass It On!
This billboard about Resilience features Allie Newman.
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