I Am Not A Miracle

By CAC2 Member Steven Giallourakis (The Steven G. Cancer Foundation)

When someone has succeeded in life, we tend to think of them as successful. That they have earned the life they have. This might be partially true, hard work does pay off. Yet when we look at someone’s success we tend to gloss over all the luck. If we are talking about business success and the accumulation of wealth, being born in the United States of America is the best roll of the dice you can have. Being born to parents who love you, who support you and can help you puts you ahead of most of the people in this world. So when you succeed in life, it is mostly because of luck. The same is true of me. I have survived 5 cancers out of pure luck. I am not a miracle.

I was 15 when I was diagnosed with Metastatic Osteosarcoma. I relapsed when I was 17. At 18 I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and had a to have a bone marrow transplant. 11 years later at the age of 29 I was diagnosed with two more cancers, Pleomorphic Sarcoma and Renal Cell Carcinoma. Through all of these cancers my parents, brothers, friends were always there for me. I was lucky to be in the city of Cleveland. Let me tell you, it is a great place to get sick. We have three wonderful hospitals, our community Hospital Metro Health, the famous Cleveland Clinic, and the place that continues to save my life, University Hospital. Talk about lucky. Oh and I forgot to mention that when I was 15, and suffering horrible pain, I was able to get into the hospital quickly because our family friend is the head of spinal orthopedic surgery at University Hospital.

At this point maybe you are wondering why I titled this piece “I Am Not A Miracle.” Over the last 18 years I have been dealing with cancer and life, I have been continually told that I am a miracle. That I must be here for a reason. I hate being told that. Not only does it make me feel like I need to change the world, but it also diminishes the lives of all the people who have died. I know that I am not the only one that feels this way either. As cancer survivors we live with so much guilt over our survival. It doesn’t help that when people here we have survived something like cancer they all think we are miracles. Let me tell you we are not. We are just lucky. I am just lucky. Lucky to have a father that could help me financially. Lucky to have a mother who would put up with me during treatments and show me endless love. Lucky to have brothers who have always defended me. Lucky to have an extended family and friend base that has just always been there for me. My cancer journey over these last 18 years has been filled with love, laughter and a whole lot of luck. Maybe that should have been the title, Love Laughter and a lot of Luck, but I wanted to make a point. I am not a miracle.

Today is National Survivors Day. A day where those of us that are here celebrate life. In a world bereft with grief and sadness we should celebrate days like today. The truth is we all should celebrate everyday we are alive. There is no life after this. This is the life we get. As I have been writing this, Marco our cat has been rubbing up against my leg and literally just meowed at me for more food. He brings such a smile to my face. It is raining here in Cleveland right now and all I want to do is go for walk in my partner Magdalene and cherish all my moments with her.

 

It being National Survivors Day, we must also remember those who are not here with us. Those who have not been so lucky. I never forget them. For better or worse I carry my friends memories with me everyday. We lucky few that have survived must carry their legacy with us. I believe that those of us who have either the mental, financial or social capacity to make change must try to. I don’t say this because I am a miracle and have a special purpose but because it is what I believe in my heart.

Life is hard, sometimes we get very lucky. When we do get lucky we need to cherish those moments and do our best to support others who are less lucky.

Happy National Survivors Day. I love you all and remember it’s ok to be lucky.  Marco thinks so.