In March 2009, my life changed forever. But I suppose that everyone who has ever received the diagnosis of cancer has a particular date etched in their minds and would say the same thing. But I was only 13. My family, friends and others, never thought we would see the next birthday, much less see me walk down the aisle and graduate. But on May 31, I will walk down that aisle to give the student speech and obtain my high school diploma. The past four years haven’t been easy, but I have been blessed.

When I was diagnosed with brain cancer, I never knew the effects that happened during treatment would continue even after treatment. I underwent several brain surgeries which turned out to be the easiest part of treatment. After 6 weeks of every day radiation and 15 months of chemotherapy, my body was incredibly weak and fragile. I use to be a star athlete in almost every sport imaginable, and won many awards and national championships because of it. I enjoyed school, and had many supportive friends and family. But when I got sick, I lost my ability and strength to participate in sports. I remember my Dad, who was also my soccer coach for many years, use to tell me to always play as hard as you can because you never know when it’s going to be your last practice or game. I always took this saying to heart, although I never really imagined it would happen so suddenly. But, one night at my lacrosse practice, I was trying as hard as could, but I still was missing the goal when I threw. It was so odd. I had no clue why this was happening. But a few weeks later we found out the true cause. Fortunately, we can now “laugh” about the situation because we both know I put 110% into it. I miss my athletic ability more than anything. I miss being on the field, running around and being “that girl to watch”. I miss the feeling of being a little tired, but never let it stop me. Funny thing, but the lessons I learned on the athletic field are probably some of the reasons I am slowly returning to health.

Because of this loss, I developed new interests that probably would have never happened unless I got cancer. I discovered a knack for event planning and was given many opportunities to use that talent over the past few years. I have been able to take my new-found love of baking and start my own business under the Cottage Kitchen License called Becca Bakes Cake. I invent new flavors, create names, and my cupcakes are flying off the shelf!

The greatest blessing has been the people I have met during this journey. I am not just talking about new people, but people I thought I knew before this but really didn’t beyond the surface. I learned the kindness of strangers, and how the effect of my “storm” and new outlook can help so many others, just by telling them my story. By volunteering with the American Cancer Society, I have been able to share my struggles with others, cry with their losses, and rejoice with their healing. It is sometimes painful, but so worth it.

I am now 18 and I still miss my athletic talent, but maybe in the future I can regain some of that again. But for now, I am going to keep doing the things I love, embrace and be thankful for every moment and every person I meet. Most importantly, in a few weeks, I get to walk down the aisle, and receive my diploma, a day that everyone never thought would ever happen.

With a gift from Nicki, I will pursue my academic career in Hospitality Management. Something I developed a passion for during my illness. This degree would allow me the training needed to succeed. I could also go to college and start my “new life”, a day my family, friends and I never thought was going to happen. I can learn about things that I yearn to be educated about and use my talents to fulfill them. I can also use my story in more ways than now, and bring hope, and encouragement to others in similar situations.