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Cancer is real - but don't give up hope

My name is Sydney and I’m here to share with you my story of being immersed by the cancer culture and being a young caregiver to someone with cancer.

I was introduced to cancer at a young age. My grandfather had it, and unfortunately we lost him to it some years back. Since then both my mother and grandmother have been touched by cancer.

About nine months ago my mom was diagnosed with stage four follicular lymphoma. We knew going in she had cancer; we didn’t know it was stage four. And stage four is a scary thing, but we knew she would be OK.

But cancer takes a lot out of you. It takes a lot of who you are with it, and not only does it take who you are but it takes your family with it, too.

It was very hard in the beginning, but hope and strength were alive. We know that when it’s gone it will come back. [Yet my mom is] the strongest woman I know and is going to fight it. She was working full time up until a month ago, and I admire that so much. It takes a special type of person to have that much strength.

At the same time cancer puts you at your weakest. I can remember the night my mom came home from getting her port put in. I didn’t see her much — she didn’t want us to see her in pain — but what I saw was someone in the most pain I’ve ever seen a human being in.

And it was one of the hardest moments of my entire life, seeing the person who has been the strongest and put on the bravest face for your entire life, seemingly breakable.

That was the moment I knew this was real and this wasn’t going away and was going to be an uphill battle — but here’s the thing about uphill battles: you have an army behind you, and this army consists of family, friends, coworkers, coaches, teachers and people you meet at hockey games.

Cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re 43 and have two kids ... it doesn’t care if you’re 108 and have 12 grandchildren ... it doesn’t care if you’re 18 and just starting your life. Cancer does not care, but we do.

We will not stop until there is a cure. We will not stop until everyone is safe, and we will not lose hope.

If cancer has taught me anything, it is that you should always greet people with a smile, because you never know what someone is going through [and] you never know what battle someone is fighting behind their brave face. Go out of your way to be kind to people.

I’d like to leave you today with a quote by Pittacus Lore: “No. Don’t give up hope just yet. It’s the last thing to go. When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope.”

Sydney Arrington, the daughter of Joy Lewis, will be a junior at Forest Grove High School in the fall. This is the keynote address she gave July 9 at the Relay for Life of Forest Grove event.