In 2010, I was diagnosed with brain stem giloma, a form of terminal brain cancer, which comes with a three to five year prognosis. I was only 31 years old at the time. Today, I have beaten the odds! I am breathing and living a wonderful life.
Cancer is a devastating disease to say the least. As a result of my cancer journey, there are many lessons I have learned that I would have never acquired if it weren't for my diagnosis five years ago.
If I had been diagnosed with the common cold in 2010 as opposed to cancer, then my life would have not gone through all the positive changes it has.
I would still be dreaming of that perfect retirement plan, rather than spending quality time with the people I love. I would be working to pay off that shiny new car, rather than planning my next adventure and checking things off my bucket list. Most importantly, I would still be wishing for tomorrow rather than living for today!
I believe my outlook played a huge part in the success of my treatment. If I would have allowed the diagnosis to get the better of me, rather than accepting the challenge, I know the outcome would have been much more grim.
I feel very grateful that I was able to study and practice the art of yoga during my treatment. Before my diagnosis, I mostly considered the physical benefits of yoga, as one of my life-long goals was to touch my toes.
My cancer experience opened my eyes to the real benefit of the practice. I learned how to remain calm and focus on my breathing while enduring stressful situations. Whether it was performing an eagle pose in a 40-degree room or facing radiation treatment, I was able to breathe deep and keep clam.
I never hit the panic button because I knew at that moment I was going to be okay. My thighs might have been in pain or the swelling of my brain may have been giving me a headache, but at that moment I knew I was able to breathe.
Knowing this was enough to calm me.
My thoughts and feelings were always focused on the total control I had over my breath. I believe how we think and feel will directly affect our lives and the people we encounter throughout.
This year, I decided to participate in my first Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. The Ride is a 200-kilometre, two-day cycling event from Toronto to Niagara Falls. I'm doing Canada's largest cycling fundraiser for a number of reasons.
I owe Princess Margaret Cancer Centre a great deal of thanks. If it weren't for this wonderful, world-class organization and the incredible people dedicating their lives to assisting those living with cancer, I would not be breathing today.
I want to bring hope to those living with cancer and the people who surround them. I was given three to five years to live, and today I am living stronger, healthier and happier then ever, five years after my diagnosis.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned through this experience is that in any circumstance, we will always have the choice to either give up or make the best of whatever time we have left.
I could have chosen to feel scared and angry when I learned I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and for very good reason. Through the art of yoga, the support of my loved ones and my experience at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, I learned to be grateful for what mattered. We each have people in our lives who deeply love us. There are strangers who will take care of us. And, we have the gift of life.
On June 13th and 14th, I will gear up to conquer cancer and trek hundreds of kilometres with thousands of others. In seven years, The Ride to Conquer Cancer has raised over $119 million for Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. I am a product of successful treatment and research, all of which are possible because of fundraising dollars.
Each of us knows someone who has been impacted by cancer. Five years ago, I was given a death sentence. For this reason, I ask you to join me in the fight to conquer this terrible disease.
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