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Allison: Bone Cancer Survivor

Dedicated to tomorrow's path

I cannot fathom the person I would be if I had not experienced cancer. Because I experienced cancer at such a young age it has shaped who I have become. I was diagnosed at the age of 13 with osteogenic sarcoma; a type of bone cancer. It taught me the immense power my actions have, not only as a cancer survivor, but as a person.

Looking back, I think I was too young to appreciate my support network as I do now. During that period in my life everyone I loved was beside me, as well as people I had never even met before. It's truly incredible how generous people can be and they helped not only me, but my family as well. In order to be successful you need that support. Being removed from school during the 8th grade was difficult, but with the support of my family and friends I was home-tutored and was able to graduate with my class. I cannot express how much that means to me.

I realized how to give as much of myself as I could to others based on what I had learned during my experience. You have to fight cancer for those that love and support you, but most importantly, for yourself. Even if you've never had cancer, chances are you know someone who has. My goal is to educate and help people understand what this experience is like. Helping people on a larger scale can help everyone overall.

For the last several years I have been involved with the HERO'S Clinic at Yale Cancer Center. This is a wonderful clinic that helps bridge the gap between living as a child with cancer and living as an adult cancer survivor. Only recently has more attention been paid to cancer survivors after their treatment is over. Cancer is such an intense experience and your caregivers are constantly checking up on you and monitoring you. Once that constant care is over, you feel alone and aimless. The HERO'S Clinic helped ease me into my new life as a survivor and focused me on survivorship as a whole. It has taught me to become more conscious of my health. I had grown up fast through my experience with childhood cancer, but now needed to learn how to grow as a survivor. The HERO'S Clinic has become such an important part of my life. I was relieved to realize I wasn't on my own once my primary treatment was finished.

Life is too short to let yourself get bogged down in the small stuff. Experience is empowerment. Through experience, especially a painful experience like cancer, you can become empowered because you are able to relate to and understand the experiences of others. My career has been influenced by my experience. I received a fellowship with the National Cancer Institute and hope to receive my PhD in psychology, focusing on health.

The quality of healthcare has been improving, but I want to be a part of making it the best that it can be. It's important not to forget what you have been through, but learn from it. The HERO'S clinic at Yale gave me the opportunity to not only move on with my care, but with my life.