So there’s a quote that I like…it says: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” That’s what I’ve learned over the past 7 years. I’m really f-in strong. But, you don’t think about it that way when you’re going through it – it just sort of happens.

I don’t necessarily wake up in the morning every day and say to myself “I’m going to be extra strong today!” – Although sometimes I suppose around a surgery or something I would – but otherwise I’d say it’s a pretty normal routine. I wake up and get ready for work – just like all of you. But then, I take my chemotherapy pills – because I have cancer. It seems so nonchalant these days. I’ve been taking it since October 2014, so it’s pretty much a routine now, right?

Honestly, no. It’s not routine. It’s not routine to be 24 and have to wake up with rashes or scars on your face because your chemo made your skin extra sensitive that night and now you have to cover it up with makeup and hope no one notices at work. It’s not routine to be so unbelievably frustrated with how sensitive your skin is now to the sun, to the point that you burn after being exposed for 5 minutes in the summertime.

“But it’s okay, you’re on chemotherapy, it’s not your fault” is all fine and dandy but…nobody knows that except me and my close friends and family.

Being a teenager – especially – and dealing with these extra struggles is really shitty. You could lose your hair, lose weight, gain weight, have hormonal adjustments, are completely exhausted, etc. You’re not supposed to be dealing with that. You’re supposed to be learning what you like, what you dislike, starting to drink or date, figuring out if you’re going to graduate high school or finish middle school on time, if you’re going to get into college… or even be able to go to college. You shouldn’t be thinking about what your friends are experiencing without you because you have to go to chemo or radiation that day.

And, it makes it SO much worse if you feel like you are alone – that nobody understands what you’re going through. You literally have no choice but to be strong – to gain some sort of normalcy in your adolescent life.

And this is why my Teen Support Bag program means so much to me. I started my foundation, Bite Me Cancer in 2010. One of my missions is to provide support to teenagers who are battling. It’s only a token, a little bit of hope, in a bag, that is sent to hospitals all over the country. Only for teenagers. Specifically, to show them, to tell them, to inspire them, that they too can be strong – that they are not alone; that we’re in this together and we’re here to help.

I didn’t have this support as a teenager with cancer. I felt very alone and didn’t know any other teenager who was going through what I was experiencing – that’s why I came up with this idea.

So far, my foundation has shipped out over 3,500 bags since this project launched in 2012 – 80 hospital partners in 35 states and DC.

I’m writing this post now because it comes at the end of a very special week. January 15th – January 22nd, every year, Teen Cancer Awareness Week takes place across the state of Virginia. This week honors teenagers who are still in the fight/have battled. My heart goes out to you.

To learn more about the efforts of my foundation, please visit www.bitemecancer.org.