Voices: My Gift of Hope

My Gift of Hope | Linda Ryan

As a three-time cancer survivor, I am more aware of how much meaning my life has now. Not only how precious life is and how thankful I am to be alive, but also of the opportunity to give back.
LindaRyan_BlogMain_crAs a three-time cancer survivor, I am more aware of how much meaning my life has now. Not only how precious life is and how thankful I am to be alive, but also of the opportunity to give back.

When I was diagnosed with recurrent cervical cancer in 2011, my prognosis was bleak—at least according to the Google searches I made. In response to that information, my friends looked for ways to honor me during my battle. My third diagnosis came at the height of my fitness level. Four weeks after running my first marathon, I found the lymph node that indicated my cervical cancer was back.

My friends asked if they could host a 5K run in our small town of Deland, FL. Our goal was for the race to be a way to get our community moving. We hoped that at least 300 people would participate; instead, 900 people registered. The community embraced the message of battling cancer with health, laughter, and friendship, and we recognized that we could do great things with the money we raised.

ME STRONG was born out of the love of friends and desire to help others. We have helped others in our community battling cancer and contributed to cancer research. While we have made an impact on the lives of individuals, making a difference in the research world is something that gives me hope that others won’t have to experience what I did.

ME STRONG has donated to various research programs over the last two years, but we have never been able to measure the impact of those donations. Through Shannon Westin, MD, my doctor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, I was introduced to Robert Coleman, MD. In speaking with Dr. Coleman about ways that ME STRONG could find a measurable way to support research, he suggested funding a grant through the SGO’s Foundation for Gynecologic Oncology.

This summer ME STRONG made a donation of $15,000 to kick off the Gift of Hope program. We are hopeful that our grant to the SGO will enable the physicians who are passionate about gynecologic oncology to move a step closer to a cure. It is because of their specialized knowledge that I lived through a diagnosis that many don’t.

As a patient, I have been able to give something back in ways that have been both numerous and impactful. I have been able to speak to other patients and share my story. By my doing so, they have found hope that they, too, may live through the dark days and once again enjoy a good quality of life. Our charity has been able to support others through the unimaginable financial difficulties brought about by a cancer diagnosis.

Hope is an amazing gift that we all can share with others. One doesn’t have to have cancer to feel a passion for giving back. My friends who have never been through chemotherapy have a desire to fund research so others don’t have to experience the helpless feeling that they had when they read about the low success rates for those who share my diagnosis. Caretakers can also find ways to support funding for research to honor others who have unselfishly cared for loved ones during their battle.

As a cancer survivor, I am grateful for the gift of hope when I learn about cancer research and tour research labs. Every patient should have that hope. I have told many people that I am thankful for my cancer because so much good has come out of it. I know that it’s easy for me to say that because I survived, but when I give to others, whether to individuals or through research, I receive a gift that gives meaning to my life and my journey.