by Adrienne Slaughter
As an upbeat, active single woman living in Hermosa Beach, CA, I live a fabulous life. But my life hasn’t always been easy. When I was just 14 years old, I faced my first of two rounds with cancer. And I was given only a one-percent chance of survival.
It was the spring of my high school freshman year, and I was a state-ranked tennis player predicted to be top ten in the South. Life was awesome.
Then I began experiencing unexplained knee pain. I quickly saw a doctor, underwent a bone scan, and received a biopsy. Later that night, I learned that the pain in my knee was osteogenic sarcoma, a childhood bone cancer.
The following Monday, during surgery to place a rod in my knee, my doctors discovered that my tumor had spread six inches over the weekend. Six inches! They were forced to amputate my right leg above the knee. I started physical therapy just two days later.
Exactly one week after my surgery, I celebrated my fifteenth birthday. Yes, I was still in the hospital, scheduled to start radiation to my lungs that afternoon. But that didn’t stop me from celebrating. Within an hour, I was presented with not one but three birthday cakes! And as amazing as that was, the best thing that happened that day was my friends accepting me, face-to-face, without a leg. Wow.
I fully recovered, life went on, and it was fabulous.
In 2009, I had my first mammogram. You guessed it – cancer, again.
The radiation therapy I had received when I was 15, the very therapy that helped save my life 28 years earlier, was the cause. But there was some good news: my breast cancer was stage zero, the earliest stage, and neither chemo nor radiation was needed. With a double mastectomy, I was 100-percent cancer-free. Once again, I fully recovered, life went on, and it was fabulous.
And while my professional tennis career never happened, I achieved much more. Today, I not only play tennis, but I also rock climb, ski, snorkel, and dance – all with my prosthetic leg. I have an incredible team of support around me, and I have faith. Yes, faith in God, but also faith in myself.
It’s that faith in myself that helps me overcome obstacles in life, including cancer. And when a thunderstorm rolls in, I remind myself that there’s a sun behind those clouds.
It will shine again – maybe not today or tomorrow – but it will shine again.
Adrienne Slaughter is a professional speaker and published author who inspires and motivates audiences nationwide. As a two-time cancer survivor, she shares her stories with a smile, attesting how a positive attitude helped her survive both rounds with cancer.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2016.
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