“How do you find the courage to move on when your life is spinning out of control?” professional dancer Brianna Mercado asks the audience in her TEDxBend Talk below. “To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that out.”
The 22-year-old bone cancer survivor gives a powerful 14-minute speech — but she doesn’t just tell her story; she dances it.
At the 6-minute mark, Mercado plays a recording she made immediately after getting her cancer diagnosis on Christmas Eve. While her voice echoes throughout the room, she dances.
“What I do know is you can’t let your fears, worries and doubts about the future prevent you from living the life you want to live,” Mercado says after her performance. “In the face of something you fear you must stand up and be brave. Life is too short to live cautiously. You may not be able to control the world but you can control who you choose to be and what actions you take… So choose to be something when your life starts to spin.”
In high school, she was a cross-country runner, an aspiring writer, a friend. When she was 15 years old, she became a bone cancer patient. At 16, she added “amputee” to her list after the disease took her lower right leg. In college, though her cancer continued to recur, she wanted to instead be defined by her passions — she told people she was a storyteller, a theater major, an actress. If they asked about her disability, she explained it without seeming ashamed or as if she were trying to hide it, but she told them the bare minimum.
When she was 23 years old, frustrated with experimental treatment after experimental treatment that never seemed to keep the disease away for good, Orner became, in many ways, a researcher. She read books on alternative cancer treatments and began to eat and exercise differently. She found empowerment in veganism and yoga — in connecting her mind and body. She liked this definition of herself: healthy. But around the same time, while discussing her life changes with a former middle school teacher who also was battling cancer, Orner realized she was something she never strived to be: selfish.
“I’d been learning that I could be a cancer patient and a talented writer, an artist and an amputee. They didn’t have to be mutually exclusive,” Orner told The Mighty. “It suddenly occurred to me that it was selfish to hide my cancer story. I had this realization that it was ironically a great act of humility to talk about myself a lot if it meant helping another person.”
Orner imagined that she would be sharing her story with mostly cancer patients and amputees. But the courage she faces disease and disability with is only part of what inspires the people who hear her story. Her redefinition of beauty is the bigger story, really.
“The emails that have amazed me are from people without disabilities who write to say they’ve never gone through something as deeply traumatic but they understand what it means to feel worthless or not worthy of love,” Orner says. “We live in a society that is bombarded with messages that you’re not good enough, and it’s wonderful when I can talk to people about finding a way to love and take care of our bodies as they are.”
Orner hopes that when people read her work or hear her speak, they’ll learn that changing how you feel on the inside can make what’s happening on the outside seem less terrible. On days when she feels like the world is working against her, when everything seems to be going wrong, she focuses on what she can control — what she eats and how hard she works.
“When I’m nurturing the heck out of myself, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the outside world,” she told The Mighty. “I can meet those challenges.”
“I don’t believe the ugly or shocking sides of my condition should be hidden,” he wrote on the picture-sharing site. “It’s part of the journey and wholly illustrating my experience is something I would like to accomplish.”
“In the past 365 days, I’ve learned more about myself and the process of life than many will learn in years,” he wrote. “This is not the end to my story though, just the marker of a difficult chapter ending.”
Below are a few pictures from Tatalovich’s journey. You can follow him on Instagram here.
On Tuesday, April 29, that wish came true. Make-A-Wish sent Aiden on a scavenger hunt all over Cairns, Australia. The 5-year-old got to fly in a helicopter, take part in his own parade and snorkel until he found his favorite clownfish, Nemo. He even found a fan in Australian actor Eric Bana.
Bald is beautiful, and a slew of famous cartoon characters are here to prove it.
In the images below, TV regulars like Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Popeye have gone under the razor so kids and teens with cancer can see that losing your hair isn’t equivalent to losing your happiness. This “Bald Cartoons” campaign began in November 2013 in São Paulo, Brazil, when two organizations — ad agency Ogilvy Brazil and nonprofit GRAACC — set out to make sure young people with cancer don’t have to feel “different” for being bald.
“We want to reduce all prejudice around the disease. There is no difference between a child with cancer and any other one,” Roberto Fernandez, creative director at Ogilvy Brazil, said in a press release. “Both are children and deserve to be happy.”
Scroll down to see just a few cartoon celebrities who went under the razor to raise cancer awareness. Then, watch the video at the bottom to see the kids’ reactions to watching their favorite, now-bald animated friends in action.