I never thought my life would be described with the words, “I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 3,” but this is exactly how my story begins.
As I reflect over my life, the 16 years after the diagnosis posed many challenges for me. In those 16 years, I battled 4 months of chemotherapy; a new diagnosis of hydrocephalus, with an inoperable cyst located at the base of my brain; loss of my left ovary; and conversations around infertility.
Re-Writing My Story
At age 19, I quickly realized that if I wanted my story to sound different, I had to find a way to soar beyond the diagnosis. I recognized I had been navigating my life from a place of defeat, steeped in frustration, anger, and agitation. It was at that point that I made a conscious decision to re-write my story. Although I could not change the diagnoses I had received, I could change my perspective on how those diagnoses impacted my life.
After several months of introspection and prayer, I understood the purpose of my journey. On August 16, 1995, I made a decision that would change the trajectory of my life; that decision was to live from a place of victory, not defeat. In addition, on that day I made an intentional decision not merely to live, but to make my life count.
I quickly grasped the power of my survivor story. The inner workings of my story were the one thing I could use to make a difference in the life of other patients with cancer, cancer survivors, and their families. At that point I decided to share my story with power and purpose.
The Power of SOAR
The power of my story is learning not only to survive, but to thrive while facing a cancer diagnosis. The purpose of my story is to help other people to SOAR. My story stands in contrast to those who think or believe that their cancer diagnosis is a death sentence.
I challenge each person who is facing, has faced, or may face a cancer diagnosis to SOAR. For me, the acronym SOAR means:
Your “it” is your who or what, your why, and your desire.
With each opportunity I get to inspire or to affect people through my speaking assignments or training, I ask them to embrace the 5 “R principles” or strategies (outlined below) that are embodied in SOAR. Once people affected by cancer can embrace these 5 strategies, they will SOAR.
The 5 “R” Strategies
- The first strategy is “right vision,” which helps us to “See it.” You must be willing to see clearly. You must adapt a 20/20 vision. Clearly see your past as the classroom for learning how to navigate this journey we call life after a cancer diagnosis.
- The second strategy is “right responsibility,” which connects to “Own it.” You must accept responsibility for what belongs to you, and pray or wish for others to accept what belongs to them.
- The third strategy is “right plan,” which is linked to “Attain it.” You must have a plan. A successful plan has goals and objectives.
- The fourth strategy is “right motive” in relation to “Re-gift it.” You must understand the “why” behind all that motivates you.
- The final strategy is “right position,” which lets us SOAR. This strategy is the pinnacle point in your survivor journey. It is the point when you realize that you have been placed in a position to help others.
You truly begin to SOAR when you recognize that your cancer journey is not only for you, but it is rather a story that when told from a place of hope, will also bring hope to others.