Sometimes it takes a small event to remind me of how much I have really achieved in my life (aka being alive!). I’ve been in and out of hospitals since I was 5 years old, when I was first diagnosed with bone cancer. My cancer came back at age 13. Chemo and radiation did a number on my body and mind, with leg amputation, kidney failure and a whole host of life-threatening situations along the way.

I never valued what I’ve been through much. I just wanted to get back to life — that is, until a self-absorbed person I met diminished how much work it took for me to stay alive, stay positive, become a yoga teacher, go to graduate school and even take a walk around the block. I decided to honor the gifts of my life for myself by writing about them. If you’ve experienced something similar, I hope this list will tap into your own gratitude meter to raise it up a bit.

1. I’m free. I really don’t care what other people think about me because I understand that life is precious, so you might as well be yourself through and through.

2. I speak with hope. I don’t want to talk about my suffering too much because I don’t want to waste a minute of this precious life.

3. My compassion for others is through the roof.

4. I know a lot — a lot about medicine, bodies, pain management, inventive ways to get through the day, maneuvering with crutches, wheelchairs, tight spaces, stairs, health, nutrition, alternative medicine, wellness, spirituality and how to choose my own happiness.

5. I’m more intuitive. I have “feelings” about things and people.

6. I’m at peace. I’m no longer afraid of death because I’ve got that one covered. Been there, done that.

7. My senses are heightened. I can smell someone full of BS from a thousand miles away.

8. I know how to stand up for myself. If someone tries to put me down or squeeze the life out of me, I know what to do. I’ve already had the life squeezed out of me so many times I can’t even count. Now I know how to fight, and I know how to win.

9. I care. I’m a give-back kind of person, someone who truly values life, who doesn’t want, but needs to contribute meaningfully to the world.

10. I’m beautiful — and so are you. We’ve earned our right to shine.Those scars aren’t for nothin’, honey.

Follow this journey on Fierce Joy.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Ryan McHenry, a Scottish filmmaker best known as the creator of the Vine (short video clip) series called “Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal,” died of bone cancer on Sunday, May 3, according to Time. He was 27.

In the Vines, compiled into one YouTube video below, McHenry made it appear that Ryan Gosling was rejecting a spoonful of cereal by combining humorously aligned clips taken from interviews and movies. They quickly went viral when he began posting them in 2013.

On Monday, to honor his departed fan, Gosling posted a Vine of himself finally eating that big spoonful of cereal.


The two had communicated via Twitter in the month before McHenry died, and Gosling admitted that he actually loved cereal.

My heart goes out to all of Ryan McHenry’s family and friends,” Gosling said on Twitter on Monday. “I feel very lucky to have been a part of his life in some small way.”

The actor’s Vine, which has already been shared over 70,000 times in 14 hours, serves as a unique and touching tribute to a departed fan. Rest in peace, McHenry.

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The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself in regards to a cancer diagnosis. What would you say or wish someone had told you? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

“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.”

She ends her talk with another dance, staged to a cover of Bastille’s “Pompeii.”

“How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” the song goes. Mercado dances.

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The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself in regards to a cancer diagnosis. What would you say or wish someone had told you? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

Danielle Orner has called herself a lot of things.

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.

Danielle Gallaher
Paul Gallaher

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.”

For the past six years, Orner, now 29 and living in Los Angeles, has been cancer-free. And she’s not keeping quiet about it. The certified yoga instructor writes memoirs, fiction and blogposts. She’s given a TEDx talk and interviewed with Shape magazine. She regularly posts motivational videos to her YouTube channel. Finally, she’s figured out how to define herself: undefinable.

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.”


Danielle Gallaher
Paul Gallaher

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.”

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself in regards to a cancer diagnosis. What would you say or wish someone had told you? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

Kayla Wiggins is just 8 years old, but she’s already beaten bone cancer two times. Despite losing both of her legs to the disease, Kayla participated in the 2014 Lilac Bloomsday Run in Spokane, Wash., on Sunday, May 4.

“She inspires me to overcome things that I think are difficult,” Philippa Mayall, Kayla’s aunt, says in the video below. “But they’re not. When you watch Kayla none of it’s hard.”

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The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself in regards to a cancer diagnosis. What would you say or wish someone had told you? Find out how to email us a story submission here.


In May 2013, when Michael Tatalovich, a senior from Henderson, Nev., found out he had a Stage 1 Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, he decided he was going to share his battle with the disease on Instagram.

“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.”

A year later, Tatalovich is in recovery with no sign of the disease, according to his most recent Instagram post.

“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.

h/t HuffPost Teen

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