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In 2009, I left the war in Iraq, not as a victorious conqueror over the enemy on the battlefield, but as someone who had unearthed a far more formidable adversary hidden within me. This unseen foe was so stealthy, so insidious, that even the most skilled sniper couldn’t have anticipated its arrival.

Little did I realize that my journey would soon lead me to trade my M16 for a gunmetal gray chemotherapy pole and clear vomit bags, while I lay in a hospital bed, curled in the fetal position, as cancer and its treatments waged war in my veins, leaving clumps of my hair scattered on my pillowcase.

My diagnosis landed like a sledgehammer: Ewing Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. The doctors delivered the news that it would spread to my brainstem, lungs, and spinal cord. Based on my scans they felt my case was akin to a death sentence. They told me my chances of survival were slim and I had a mere year to live. According to my doctors, I shouldn’t be here today.

Thirteen years later, I haven’t merely survived; I’ve thrived. Some attribute it to good fortune, with my mother being the first to do so, but I want to share why I believe I’m still here and how I’ve harnessed my second chance at life to carry a message of hope worldwide and advocate for my fellow cancer warriors.

In my time as a cancer survivor, I have reclaimed and reinvented my life, exploring new passions and different career paths that I never would have dreamed of had it not been for cancer. My time on the battlefield might be over, but my fight hasn’t ended. I continue to lead a life of service through my advocacy work and have been working with Bristol Myers Squibb’s Survivorship Todayan initiative aimed at sharing stories of individuals affected by cancer and advancing our collective understanding of what it’s like to live with the disease today, to share my story in the hopes that others can relate to my experience and feel a sense of connection and hope.

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