Sunday, April 3, 2011

Relay for Life: 2011

My name is Ashwani Jain, and this is my fourth year in a row attending and speaking here at Relay. If you do the math, that makes me a senior, and by contractual obligation, I have to say, “Go Terps!”

I’ve been through a lot in my life; hopefully more than most people have had to or ever will. When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed and treated for cancer. I went to the best doctors in the world and got the best treatment available. A lot of that is thanks to the wonderful work the American Cancer Society does to fund and conduct research that helps us better understand, prevent, and cure cancer.

Now, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Cancer sucked. We all know what cancer is, and what it does. And chances are that we all probably know someone who has dealt with it. But unless you actually have lived with it, there’s just no way to truly grasp how life-changing it is. Not only did my cancer affect me, but it affected my entire family. I still remember seeing my parents cry for the first time. I felt like I was on an episode of Oprah, but no one got a car or a free trip to Australia.

Of course, I was one of the lucky ones. Every year, millions are not able to win their fight against cancer. Tonight, we take this take to honor their memories, and celebrate their lives.

But even though I’ve been cancer free for 8 years, I still have several side effects from the treatment, many of which are incurable. All these prevent me from doing certain things that most 21 year olds should be able to do. Sometimes that makes me feel bad. I begin to ask, why did this have to happen to me? Even years after my treatment, my body is still feeling the pain. But why? I eat very healthy, stay very active, treat others with respect, listen to my parents, and I still can’t live a normal life.

Then I realize that we don’t always have control over the hand that we’re dealt. But what we do have control over is how we play those cards. So I keep a very positive mindset. Instead of comparing myself to others, and seeing what I don’t have, I look at what I do have. The mere fact that I am standing here today in front of all you is a true blessing. The fact that I have air in my lungs and am healthy is enough reason to be happy. Things could have been much worse. But they’re not.

You don’t need to have lived through what I have to understand this appreciation for life. As my good friend Albert Einstein, or Al as I called him, once said, there are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; or you can live as if everything is a miracle. This is why events like Relay are so important. Because they help people realize the beauty of life. If it wasn’t for the amount of money and awareness the American Cancer Society raises for cancer research, I would not be alive today.

So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your effort in making sure millions, like myself, are able to celebrate a birthday every single year. You guys are my heroes.

So, please, the next time you hop up out of bed, turn your swag on, look in the mirror and say wassup, do 3 things. 1) give thanks for waking up, because there are millions who may not be given that luxury; 2) show appreciation for the people in your life, as many are left to deal with their problems alone; 3) laugh, because without it, we forget why life is fun. Now as I leave, I want to quote something from one of the most profound, intellectual, and influential people of our time. Master Shi-fo from Kung fo Panda said, "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift.”



  1. Beautiful and eloquent Mr. Jain.

  2. i didnt do the math so thank you for telling me. overall, very inspirational. im glad i know u. real feeling that soulja boy at the end btw

  3. Go Terps! Beat cancer!

  4. Very inspiring speech my friend.I see signs of a future leader!!

  5. Ashwani - as always, you're upbeat, positive and inspirational. Thank you for all that you do!

  6. Great speech, Ashwani!

  7. "Like" all comments above. Great blog post.


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