I don't remember being sick. I don't remember the pain I apparently went through, the constant fatigue and lethargy, the surgery I had to undergo to remove my tumor, or the ordeal I went through with chemotherapy treatment afterward.
I was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) when I was only 16 months old. My mother was changing my diaper when she noticed blood, and although my parents knew that this meant that there was something wrong, nothing could have prepared them for cancer.
I know how lucky I am – lucky to have survived without having any long lasting effects, lucky to have been too young to remember being so sick, and lucky to have parents who recognized there was a problem and quickly took me to get help. My earliest memories are happy ones, thanks entirely to the amazing oncology team at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I actually enjoyed going for routine checkups and ultrasounds because the environment there was so cheerful.
Although I don't recall any of my illness, being a cancer survivor has completely changed my life for the better.
To me, being a survivor is like being a member of a community where you feel a camaraderie with others who have fought to live.
Ever since high school, I have been actively engaged in helping to prevent and cure cancer in any small way I possibly can. I may not have a career in this field, but I understand why it is so crucial to raise funds for cancer research as I have seen firsthand the direct impact that research has on improving survival rates.
In 1989 when I was diagnosed, oncologists told my parents that given my type of cancer, I had a 50 percent chance of survival. In the room next to mine at CHOP, a girl about a year older than me also suffered from RMS. Her cancer metastasized and she passed away. Twenty-seven years since we were diagnosed, the odds of survival have increased to over 80 percent. This simply would not be possible were it not for the groundbreaking strides made in cancer research throughout the years.
This is why I support the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). My company, Liberty Mutual Insurance, gave me the opportunity to volunteer with them this past spring, and it led to me becoming an AACR Foundation Cancer Thriver and an Ambassador for Runners for Research in the upcoming AACR Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon and 5K.
I will be participating in the 5K on September 17and invite runners, joggers, and walkers to join me. If you aren't available that weekend to participate in the event, I encourage you to contribute in other ways! There is so much you can do, and even something that seems so small can help so much. Donate funds, volunteer your time, or simply share a link to the AACR's website on social media.
Cancer affects everyone. Help me raise awareness and promote funding for research. Every little bit helps bring us closer to finding a cure.
Krista Holmes is a Cancer Thriver with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the charity title partner for this weekend's AACR Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon and 5K. Krista will be raising funds for cancer research on AACR's Runners for Research team, running the 5K on Saturday, September 17.
Read more Diagnosis: Cancer here »