The three phrases that stuck with me the most were:
- Expect great things
- Get on a team with good people
- Follow your heart
The more I thought about his speech and these phrases, the more I began to think that they were just as much applicable to cancer patients and survivors, as they were to college graduates.
When I sat there in the football stadium at Duke University, listening to Coach K, I had the strange experience of my life flashing before my eyes. Clarissa at 4 years old, being too tired from chemo to run around outside. Clarissa at 8 years old playing with friends and running through the rain puddles, as healthy and happy as any child could possibly be. Clarissa at 10 years old, holding her first dog, succeeding in school, and beginning to become a teenager. Clarissa at 13 having her whole world crash down around her.
As I listened to Coach K speak, I couldn’t help but think back to the time when I had no idea if I would make it to that seat I was sitting in. I had no idea that I would ever reach the end of college – especially not the end of college at my dream school. And then I thought about how I got where I was sitting, how I made it into that stadium for Duke University Commencement 2016.
I think I had done exactly what Coach K had suggested, without realizing it, because of my experience with cancer.
My experience with cancer introduced me to a team of incredibly supportive and talented doctors, nurses, tutors, teachers, friends, and neighbors. Cancer enabled me to get on a team with good people who continue to support and guide me to this day.
Cancer taught me to expect great things because the alternative was not one I wanted to consider. I decided that getting through cancer would mean thinking positive and dreaming big – whether or not I would see those dreams through.
And I learned to follow my heart because cancer taught me that life was not a guarantee and any time I spent unhappy or unfulfilled was time wasted. This life we live is given to us to find joy when things get tough, to find fulfillment when opportunity seems scarce, and to follow our passions so that we can give back to the world and make a difference.
No matter who you are or where you are at in your experience with cancer, remember to expect great things for yourself, build a good team of supportive people who care about you and expect great things of you, and follow your heart! You might just find yourself, many years later, in a place you could never have imagined!