Gov. Larry Hogan recently announced that he is cancer-free.
When I saw the news, I couldn't help but feel such a great happiness in my heart. I had teary eyes as I watched him talk; tears rolled down my cheeks as his voice cracked, and I shared his feelings of relief and thankfulness.
There is something about having had cancer that makes you rejoice in other people's cancer-free news, regardless of whether they are complete strangers to you. As a cancer survivor, you feel joy in your heart every time you hear that another person defeated cancer and made it through the tough times.
"Another blessed patient that has a second opportunity at life," I thought, and I totally identified with him. Those of us who have walked in Hogan's shoes can fully understand what he has gone through and the significance of hearing the words "you are cancer-free."
Although you know there are many months of monitoring and check-up appointments ahead, and that there will always be the fear of having cancer again, you still have this feeling of accomplishment for winning an incredibly tough battle.
As a cancer survivor, you have a new appreciation of life, of every person's life.
During the time of his treatments, Hogan had the opportunity to spend time with other cancer patients, many of them children.
Because of this experience, Hogan said during his news conference, "It's because of these fellow patients that I will remain committed to raising awareness, encouraging research that will one day lead to a cure for this terrible disease."
When you go through cancer, you adopt a new perspective on life and helping others. But when you are blessed enough to be cancer-free, you have this feeling of responsibility to help and support others and make it possible for them to have the same opportunity you have being given.
Some people act on this responsibility as Hogan does, by supporting research and charities, while others volunteer their time to help patients or, like me, decide to go into the health field to become health professionals.
Regardless of the ways in which you decide to help after surviving cancer, one thing is for sure: You are a different person after cancer. Being a cancer survivor completely changes the color of the lens through which you see life.
The moment you hear those words "you are cancer-free," you meet a new version of yourself. You meet a more humane, more caring, stronger side of yourself than you ever knew before cancer. Your priorities become more clear and so does your respect and love for life.
You have a new appreciation for the simple things in life and the act of opening your eyes every morning has a completely new meaning.
What does it mean to be cancer-free?
It means life overall has a new meaning and your heart feels the need to help others.
It means you now face life with new purpose, strength, appreciation and determination. And you have one more reason to be thankful every day.