“My Voice” by Jerry Kelly

Jerry and Angie Kelly

My first contact with cancer was losing my grandfather to colon cancer. I can still remember my dad struggling to tell me of the diagnosis. The word survivor was never mentioned back then. Thirty years later I faced the same struggle telling my daughters that their grandfather had brain cancer. My dad fought strong for 5 months before we lost him. Three years later when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, all of the memories of my cancer experiences came back. I knew I needed a positive spin to put on this when I told my family. I used the survivor story of Lance Armstrong. I knew nothing about cycling or Lance, but he had just won the Tour de France and I just needed a good survivor story to pin to my diagnosis. It was great inspiration to see someone else get through cancer and go back to their life. It really didn’t matter what that life was.

As we went through treatment, and I say we because my wife, daughters, mother and friends all went through this with me, we met other survivors and began sharing stories. We had some friends that had gotten through cancer, but they never talked about it and never shared any experiences of the ordeal. What we discovered was that this was like therapy for us and inspiring to others, just because we were willing to talk openly about cancer. We started organizing fundraising and awareness events, which we discovered was more inspiring and motivating to others because I was a survivor.

There was a time after I finished treatment that I wondered how long it would be before I made it through a day without remembering I was a cancer survivor. I quickly realized that would never happen and I never wanted it to happen. As a survivor, I feel an obligation to continue to fight cancer. It makes people feel good. It makes me feel good. It’s a constant reminder for me to appreciate life. We have three daughters. How can we not continue to fight, knowing they may face this one day. The experiences and people we meet in life make us the people we are today. Being a survivor isn’t something I do, its part of who I am.