How’s everyone doing?
I first want to thank you all for having me, and for all your help in making the Make-A-Wish Foundation better.
Now, some of you may know me from this year’s Relay for Life event on campus. For others, I probably remind you of a young George Clooney, or that guy from One Direction (you know, all of them). But for everyone else, my name is Ashwani Jain, and I am a 9 year cancer survivor.
When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Because they found my tumor at its early stages, I only had to undergo 4 months of extensive chemotherapy. I say only 4 months because every other child that I met while getting treated at the Children’s Hospital in DC had far worse situations than I did. Many of them were not only younger than I was, but they had to undergo more surgeries and harsher treatments for longer periods of time.
And although their physical conditions made them very weak, their spirits were undoubtedly strong. It was from their courage and exceptionally optimistic outlook on life that I became inspired to give back.
I learned from them that no matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse. At the same time, it is often within your power to make them better, and find the opportunity in every difficulty.
So, I stayed true to the UPS slogan, “what can brown do for you” and I got to work. After I finished my treatment, I began performing charity magic shows for the Children’s Hospital, the Children’s INN at the NIH, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I took to heart what Mark Twain once said, and learned firsthand that “the best way to cheer yourself up is to try and cheer someone else up.”
Today, I am now a volunteer Wish Ambassador and Wish Grantor for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation certainly has a very special place in my heart. One year after my treatments were over, the Foundation gave me a trip of a lifetime. It was early morning, and the foundation sent a limo to pick my family and me up. It was the first time I ever rode one. In fact, I didn’t really understand what to do, so I actually rode in the passenger’s seat in front. For those of you who don’t know, that’s not how you’re supposed to ride a limo.
We then boarded a train to New York City, where we were greeted by a Wish staff member, who gave us a tour of the city and tickets to the Broadway show: Julius Caesar.
After the show, they took us back stage, where we met the cast and crew. Then something happened that made my heart drop. I got a tap on my shoulder and when I turned around, it was none other than the man I had wished to meet: Denzel Washington. Needless to say I was awe-struck. He took us to his dressing room, where he spoke with us for about 15 minutes. And for those 15 minutes, nothing else mattered. Cancer was just another word in the dictionary.
My parents weren’t thinking about the fact that they had almost lost their son; my sister wasn’t thinking about all the pain she saw her older brother go through; and I wasn’t worried about all the scars my surgeries left behind. All I was able to focus on was that very moment, and how my dream was coming true.
This is largely attributed to the work done by organizations such as Maryland Wishes. And it is because of the tremendous work and dedication of people like you, by simply showing up to events like this that make this foundation such a huge success, and keeps me motivated to stay active.
Whether you’re another cancer survivor, had a relative with cancer, or know someone with cancer, we are all affected by this horrible disease. Now, imagine if we can provide the amount of joy that I had to all children suffering from these types of life-threatening medical conditions. If we can do that, then there is nothing that these kids cannot overcome.
Winston Churchill once said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Today, you have all given me and children who are currently facing these uphill battles hope and inspiration.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I’m truly appreciative for your support, for being here today, and for helping wishes come true.