When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Because my doctors found my tumor at its early stages, I only had to undergo 4 months of chemotherapy. I say only 4 months because every other child I met while getting treated at the Children’s Hospital in DC experienced far worse conditions than I did. Many of them were not only younger than I, but also 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 unbelievably strong. It was from their courage and exceptionally optimistic outlook on life that I was inspired to give back.
I learned from them that no matter how bad things are, a negative attitude can always make things worse. At the same time, it is often within your power to make things better and find opportunity in every difficulty.
So, I stayed true to the UPS slogan, “what can brown do for you” and I got to work.
So 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.
In 2005, after my cancer 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 aren’t laughing, let me tell you a secret: You’re not supposed to ride a limo like that.
Anyway, 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 whole cast and crew. Then something happened that made my heart leap. I saw my reflection in the mirror.
But then 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; I wasn’t worried about all the scars and pain my surgeries left behind. All I was able to focus on was that very moment, and how my dream was coming true.
But that couldn’t have been possible without the strong support and love from groups like BAE Systems. And it is because of the tremendous work and dedication of people like you, by simply showing up to events like this, which make this foundation such a huge success, and keeps ME motivated to stay active.
I want you all to 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. And I know that from experience.
I’ve been through a lot in my short life. But I continue to stay positive and optimistic. Not in spite of my previous medical conditions, but more so because of them.
And anytime I’m feeling down on myself, I think, “Today is still better than yesterday, and tomorrow will be even better than today.”
And that’s all thanks to events like this, and people like you.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you all for giving me hope and inspiration, and for helping dreams come true. Thank you!