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On Love

A fitting topic considering today is Valentine’s Day: love. I don’t think there’s an emotion stronger than love, and there’s hardly a feeling better than loving someone or something with all of your heart. Love makes us vulnerable but, more importantly, it connects us with something outside ourselves. In that sense, when we embrace love, we embrace community – whether it be with another person or with a certain place in the world or with a college basketball team. And when we embrace love, we can never be alone.

So much of my battle royale with cancer could be seen as a path that I’ve walked alone. Sure, I’ve had family and friends cheering me on, and doctors guiding the way, but at the end of the day, who gets wheeled into the operating room? Who rests in the hospital bed and receives hours of chemotherapy drugs? Who deals with the hangover-like side effects from chemo or the dehydration that it brings? Who is alone in that room when the machine lines everything up and radiation starts?

I have supporters around me all the time, but when the rubber hits the road, I have to endure these difficult things -- these cancer-killing and life-saving challenges -- on my own.

But that’s only from the physical standpoint, and that’s a small part of what this cancer-killing experience has been about. The physical stuff is tough and, yes, I have to go it alone, but it’s a fraction of what this entire thing has been about. My fight with cancer has been about learning how to take care of myself, learning how to value every second of life, and making sure that whatever I’m doing, my mind and spirit are focused and positive so they can help my body perform as well as possible. It has been about emotional and spiritual stability and a sense of peace that permeates every moment of my life – knowing that yes, I will be okay. No matter what I have to endure and how long it takes, I will be okay. Knowing that I AM okay in this very moment. And that’s where love comes in.

To feel the love of my family and friends, my colleagues and my medical team is an incredible thing, and something that fills my heart and makes me strong and ready to conquer the world. To be in London or New York City and to experience the places that fascinate me fills me with wonder and inspires me to seek even more joy from life. To cheer on my Duke Blue Devils or sing along to my favorite music or swish a three pointer fortifies my spirit and reminds me that so many things in life make me truly happy. And in those moments, when I am surrounded by love and loving so many things, I know that I could never be alone. I could never be lonely. And I don’t go through anything alone.

When I’m being wheeled into the operating room, even when my family is far away down the hall, I’ve got my iPod and my music. When I’m guzzling up chemo in the day hospital, my family and friends are by my side, rubbing my feet and bringing me food. When I’m dealing with chemo side effects, my Blue Devils are playing basketball beautifully and distracting me from that little lingering headache. And when the techs leave the radiation room, I can close my eyes and dream of England and there I am. At every moment of every day, I can feel love cradling me, protecting me, and seeing me through. And I can feel love making my life an extraordinary, incredible thing.

And in return, I love as hard and as much as my gigantic little heart allows.

It’s life-sustaining and life-affirming. It’s beautiful and precious. It’s unbending and unyielding -- strong, ever-present, and never failing. It’s love.

And speaking of love, there are only five days until my labor of love is unveiled to the public. FIVE DAYS!! I can’t wait to share my plans with all of you.

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