“MDC Kicks Out Cancer”
Almost a year ago, my family was told some unexpected and devastating news; my twenty-four-year old sister, Rebecca, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It has been hard to watch my sister fight for her life this year, but through her battle I witnessed her optimism in the midst of a dark time. Her journey has inspired me to always look for the “light at the end of the tunnel”. Through her struggle, my sister taught me to consider the brighter side of every situation, and I was convicted to help others realize the same. Experiencing up-close and personally how cancer can take such a toll on a person, their family, and finances, I was determined to help raise awareness and financial resources for others who are currently enduring the similar challenges that come with this ugly disease. Empathy for others experiencing the pain and anxiety that cancer brings to families and the crippling medical bills related to those in treatment developed an idea within that moved me to action. Rebecca inspired me, and that inspiration drove me to become more than just a spectator, but rather a motivator to those in my community.
Although my 2019 summer was academically rigorous with an engineering internship and Chemistry classes, I began formulating ideas and practical ways to increase awareness among my peers and to also facilitate financial support for current cancer patients. Motivated by my sister, and with the help of my honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, I submitted a service project proposal in the fall of 2019, called “MDC Kicks Out Cancer”. This became our chapter’s official initiative for the academic school year. The premise and aim were geared towards raising awareness for current cancer patients who are uninsured and under-resourced in the Miami Dade Kendal community. The inspiration came from my own experience, witnessing my sister’s taxing chemotherapy treatments and the subsequent doctor and treatment bills she received.
With help from the American Cancer society’s Senior Manager of Community Development, whom I contacted personally, we formulate the mission statement: “The last worry any cancer patient should have is whether they can afford treatment.” Our goal was to first raise awareness through informational sessions with speakers from the American Cancer Society, oncologists from local hospitals, and cancer survivors. These informational sessions were called “Mission Literacies,” which attracted over 350 students and faculty during the fall of 2019. During these events personal stories were shared, and professionals in the field, along with oncologists, described the devastating truth that the under-resourced who battle cancer must face. After each one of our Mission Literacies, I would often reflect on how grateful I was that my sister’s financial pressures were not as daunting since she had access to insurance coverage. All of these informational sessions culminated in our final event: a five vs. five soccer tournament held on the Miami Dade soccer field. I lead the Executive PTK Board in organizing and promoting this fund-raiser event, where we officiated 5 fields, provided food, beverages, music, and event day t-shirts for players and spectators. We had 11 teams register from several Miami Dade College campuses as well as community teams that had heard of the event and wanted to participate. Over 200 people came out to support our cause, cheering on their favorite team and contributing financially as well. I am thrilled to say we raised over 4,000 dollars for those currently battling cancer!
My college experience has helped me realize my own potential and ability to influence others to make a positive difference. I never expected that my sister would be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age, but through all this, good still resulted. Her extremely positive outlook on life has influenced me, my character, and choice of life priorities. Having the opportunity to make even a small positive contribution for the benefit of others is empowering and humbling as well. It has molded the man I am today. A quote from one of my favorite speakers, Eric Thomas, has given me new perspective: “Where there is no struggle, there is absolutely no progress.” I understand experientially now that struggle develops endurance and perseverance, which leads to positivity. Ultimately, positivity becomes the avenue to gratefulness, a quality that guarantees a brighter future. I am grateful too: since the inception of my idea for this project, my sister completed her chemotherapy and is now in remission!