With an amazing team of individuals, I am setting off as a blind cancer survivor the day after I graduate from college on May 22nd to climb the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.
In the process, my team is working on raising $500,000 for charities and organizations that not only saved my life, but gave me the strength and the tools to start living again. I realize that the amount of support I had greatly contributed to my success, and I want to make sure children facing life threatening illnesses, disability, or adversity in their lives have the same resources I had to be successful.
In addition, my team will be working two days at an orphanage in Tanzania with blind and visually impaired youth before we embark on the trek. The impact our team is trying to make globally is one in where people start living life fully, making a difference, and redefining what others see as possible.
I believe that people don’t hear you until they know you, which is why I wanted to include a little background of my story. Although it can’t capture everything I went through, I believe it can shed light on why people have decided to rally behind me in this mission to hopefully change the world.
As a 15-year-old freshman in high school, my life would change drastically with a diagnosis of t-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. From there I would experience a short-lived period of remission where eventually my cancer would not only come back, but in about 48 hours would completely take my sight away.
At that point in my life, the only chance I had for survival was a bone marrow transplant – but after a week of chemo and total body radiation, the cure had become the killer. I experienced heart, lung, and kidney failure – but the worst was a diagnosis of imminent death. Thankfully I made it through what I see as one of the darkest moments of my life, but things would never be easy.
By the time I returned home after months in the hospital, I couldn’t walk without a walker and someone holding me up from behind. I was receiving my nutrients through IV because I was too weak to eat. I had to spend an entire year in isolation because my immune system reset and the slightest illness could kill me. And to top it off I was a blind individual entering into a sighted world.
Despite all of this, I broke through the limitations people placed on me – and many feel I have gone on to do the impossible.
I went on to graduate on time from high school and have now almost entirely made it through college with a rounded GPA of 3.98.
I trekked through the Grand Canyon, white water rafting down the Colorado and hiking the 9.9-mile Bright Angel Trail out. And I have traveled the country sharing my story with individuals to show them the power to achieve whatever we want in life is in our hands, not our circumstances.
I believe we can move mountains if we move them together. See you at the top.