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    The Lessons of Cancer

    I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 22, right in the middle of graduate school.

    Having cancer was not personally the terrible experience that I believe most people picture when they think about being diagnosed with cancer. I really looked at having leukemia as a learning experience, especially because I am going into the medical profession. Even when diagnosed, I was honestly relieved that there was finally a reason why I had been feeling sick for so long.

    Having a diagnosis was like having a goal for me — knowing that leukemia was something that I could beat.

    There were certainly some bumps along the road, like having a reaction to chemo, getting hospitalized right before finals week, and missing exams. And, not being able to graduate with my friends this past year was probably the most disappointing moment through my treatment. However, I would say with certainty that the positive experiences outweigh the negatives.

    My relationships with my friends are just as strong, if not stronger now than they were before I had cancer, and I even made some new friends in the process. I was able to convince my family that I needed a dog. I learned a lot about love and sacrifice from my family. And I found that I am really passionate about helping other young adults with cancer.

    I really do believe that everything happens for a reason — I had cancer so that I could help somebody else.

    I recently finished chemo, and I am not sure what I was expecting because when I think about what cancer looked like in my mind before all of this, I don’t think “post-cancer” was anything I ever envisioned. It certainly isn’t ever portrayed on TV or in the movies. The only thing I can really relate having leukemia to is to running a half marathon. When you start the race, you are thinking about the end goal, of finishing, but aren’t thinking about after. When you start the race, you think about making it to small milestones, like the first 3 miles (or the end of your first cycle of chemo). Next is the half way point which is a boost (for me this was getting to go back to school). Your legs are tired, but you don’t notice because you are so focused on making it to the finish line. Then, you only have a mile or two left when you are really fatigued — but you don’t really notice because you know you’re almost at the end (knowing that you only have a few procedures left).

    Finally, you cross the finish line and you stop running. And it hits you: your toes all have blisters, your calves are burning, your mouth is dry, and you are exhausted. You have met your goal, so you don’t have anything to focus on and you finally feel the weight of the 13.1 miles you just ran.

    This is what it was like to finish chemo. I got to the end, which was such a great feeling, but I finally realized how tired I was.

    It finally hit me what I had just been through over the past 29 months.

    I don’t know if I thought my life was just going to magically go back to how it had been before cancer…but I honestly feel kind of weird. Being post-treatment now, I feel like I need to re-learn what “normal” is again. This has been a lot more difficult than it was to adjust to having cancer.

    However, I know if I look at this through the lense of my cancer — an experience to learn and grow from — I will be able to take something from it and help others try to navigate “normal”.

    If I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that cancer might leave you physically, but it never really goes away. Every day I have a choice to let that impact be positive or negative.

    Finding the positives aren’t always easy. But, because of all of this, I definitely choose to try to see the good in every situation, see the beauty in the world around me, and see how I can be a better person and use what I’ve learned to positively impact others.


    About the Author 

    catCat Gawronski is one of our 13thirty participants! She was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and has recently finished treatment. She is in her last year of pharmacy school at University at Buffalo.

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    Journeys 2017 – SOLD OUT!

    **Journeys is now SOLD OUT! Thank you for your generous support!**

    16th Annual Celebration of Living

    November 4th, 2017 6:00PM
    Temple B’rith Kodesh
    2131 Elmwood Ave
    Rochester, NY 14618

    Please join us!
    Silent Auction, Raffles, Wine Pull, Cocktails, Music, Dinner and Dessert!

    Make a Difference Award
    Dr. Barbara Asselin Golisano Children’s Hospital

    Corporate Sponsor Salute
    Valpak of Rochester, Inc.

    Special Performance
    The Bridges of 13thirty With Special Guest Artists Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle Airigami.com

    Purchase Tickets

    Single Ticket: $75

    Table of Eight: $520

    Sponsor a Teen Family: $225

    Contact info@13thirty.org or call (585) 563-6221 for more information.

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    13thirty Fit – Working Out Together!

    You know that exercise is always more challenging with a friend. Whether you’re hitting the gym together, being nutrition-conscious, or meeting up for a run, you help each other reach your goals and feel great together at the same time! Now imagine a class of about 10 people, specifically designed for those of us who have come through surgeries, undergoing cancer treatments of various degrees, and various levels of fitness capabilities. Talk about upping the ante!

    At 13Thirty Fit, every Wednesday night, we are pushed, challenged and changed together. We are choosing to make time for ourselves, encouraging each other—no matter what our week has looked like, what difficult situations we’ve faced, or how we’re feeling!

    Katlyn Hutchings - NutritionistKatlyn Hutchings – Nutritionist

    Another big piece of 13thirty Fit is nutrition. This past Wednesday, we were taken back to our childhood snacks (in this case, “ants on a log” with locally produced Once Again Nut Butter) and discussed the importance of a whole-foods and nutrient-rich diet. Exercise is important, but what you put in to your body is even more vital to daily health!

    As we build up to two 5Ks this May, I’m determined to keep pushing the limits and challenging myself. Cancer is a tough battle and knowing that you’re surrounded by a community of like-minded friends, who are working hard right alongside of you, is so uplifting and inspiring. Making our bodies fit, healthy and strong is the goal—but growing together and creating a safe, understanding community as we continue on our journey is the true reward.

     

     

    About the Author

    Sabrina_photoSabrina is one of the awesome young adult survivors participating in 13thirty Fit! To read more of Sabrina’s work, visit her website, sabrinagauer.com

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    Grand Opening of new Rochester Center

    13thirty Rochester just moved to a new space!