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A Success Story - Krystal Byrne

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Krystal Byrne 

Krystal has graduated in 2012 from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, majoring in Visual Communication Design.  Krystal's experience with cancer has shown her the true values in life and given her the strength to keep raising her own personal bar for success, believing that there is no such thing as too much.   She is a Biphenotypic Acute Leukemia (BAL) survivor.  In her own words:

I encourage everyone to put some serious thought into the following quote between two CNN news anchors' discussion of an excerpt from Gilda Radner's book: Bill Hemmer: You said cancer changes your life and often times for the better.  Joel Siegel: Yes.... Gilda Radner... said this in her book.  What cancer does is, it forces you to focus, to prioritize, and you learn what's important.  I mean, I don't sweat the small stuff.  I used to get angry at cab drivers.  It's not worth it... And when somebody says you have cancer, you realize it's all small stuff.  And what Gilda said is, if it weren't for the downside, everyone would want to have it.  But there is a downside. (American Morning, CNN, 13 June 2003).

What are values anyway? A mere summary of what we believe in and
 what's important to us?  Well then the question arises as to what should be considered as a value or what is rather simply a figment of our imagination that only appears to be good or 'ideal' but consequently is an object or idea gone corrupt by society's interactions and interpretations of these ideas.  Stop and ask yourself this question:  'What are your true life values?  What means more to you in life than anything else and would be unthinkable to live without?'

Prior to my experience with biphenotypic acute leukemia, numerous things were important to me, but now those things are viewed to me as more of a fetish I indulged in and only a mere luxury.  My battle with cancer has helped me find my true values in life, with the first and foremost being my family.  There were numerous times that I was unable to perform the simple tasks in life that everyone takes for granted, such as brushing my teeth, taking a shower, and even getting dressed on my own.  Without the constant help from my family, I would not have been able to perform these simple everyday tasks, which to me could have been compared to lifting a two-ton boulder above my head; with one finger.  Secondly, I value the knowledge I have learned from my experience.  It really puts things in perspective for you.  You realize what cancer really means, not just losing your hair and chemotherapy, but relearning how to walk, going months upon months unable to eat food or drink, and even unable to bathe on your own. 

Cancer is a battlefield, with many soldiers, true fighters among those fields, all bringing different weapons within them ready to win not only the one battle alone, rather all the battles - the entire war.  Knowing what one really goes through when dealing with cancer, as I have witnessed leukemia, my grandma's breast cancer, and my other grandma's skin cancer, I can honestly say I know how they feel, and it makes me appreciate all those no matter how old or young, fighting their battles. 

Not only has cancer impacted my values in life, but also my career goals and the appreciation for others' careers.  Without the knowledge of specially-trained doctors and the caring smiles and gentle touches of registered nurses, I would not be alive today.  How has it impacted my personal career goals?  To begin with, I am currently majoring in the field of Visual Communication Design at the University of Dayton.  This major requires an immense amount of out of class work, which is very tedious and precise.  There were times my freshman year that I thought maybe the major was taking its toll on me mentally and physically, and I had thoughts about switching majors.  After dealing with cancer, I am confident that not only will I obtain my VCD degree, but also I will grow and excel in this field.  My battle with cancer has taught me that if I can overcome the fight with cancer, and the effects it has had on the rest of my body (heart failure; a kidney transplant on September 7, 2007, which caused me to miss a semester of college; and extreme graph versus host disease), then I can overcome the large meticulous tasks in order to achieve my dream of being a graphic designer. 

Not only has cancer helped give me motivational strength when achieving that particular goal, but it has also persuaded me to possibly double major or minor, because now I know that there is no such thing as too much.  Previously I've dealt with what I would consider to be 'too much' but after beating those odds, nothing is unachievable for me.  When looking towards my future I know I'll be okay.  Well no, not okay, more than okay, GREAT!  I recall witnessing a very small child passing by with her IV pole and chemotherapy treatment at the hospital.  Something hit me that day that made me want to help underprivileged children even more.  At the University of Dayton we can adopt a child over Christmas that is sadly from a less fortunate neighborhood.  We buy these underprivileged children gifts and make sure we bring a smile to their faces, even if only for an instant.  After my battle, I dressed up as an elf over Christmas break and delivered stuffed animals to a local pediatric ward.  I bought extras to bring to The University Hospitals of Cleveland to deliver to younger cancer patients there as well.  One of my main goals in my future is to develop a relationship with a younger cancer patient that I can help instill hope, love, and take their mind off their fears.  Helping a child make it through cancer as I have myself would mean more to me than life itself.

I have performed numerous volunteer activities.  The one I feel was most influential and had the biggest impact on my life was being part of a group called P.A.R.T.Y. (Putnam Adolescent Response Team for Youth), whose main initiative was to teach youth the negative effects of drug and alcohol.  I myself learned immensely from being a part of this peer group; I have not even flirted with the idea of turning to drugs and alcohol.  I dressed up as an elf and delivered stuffed animals to the pediatrics ward at St. Rita's Hospital.  I have also been a mass server for the Immaculate Conception Parish, and have helped teach students about the Catholic faith.  I have also helped obtain non-perishable foods for the needy, helped raise money for the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life, started Krystal's Clips for a Cure (I created hair berets, with a portion of the proceeds going to cancer research).  My favorite volunteer work involves children:  University of Dayton's Christmas on Campus and Big Sisters.  When I adopted a child for a day, I cannot explain how my heart melted making this child smile, and when she grabbed my hand to walk her around, a tingly sensation of goodness overwhelmed my body. 

I really appreciate this scholarship, which will allow me to continue my education and pursue my goals.  The weekly emails give me constant encouragement and motivation.  I just love them.  Thank you for everything, Cancer Survivors' Fund!

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