The television show Survivor has garnered millions of fans who devotedly watch every week to see which of their favorite contestants will make it through another round of competition.
Over 10 years later, "Survivor" is still great television. We gravitate to those contestants that appeal to our personalities; we celebrate their victories and agonize over their struggles. But, when we lose someone as vibrant, passionate, and beautiful as Jennifer Lyon to a vicious disease like cancer, we are reminded that real struggles cannot be wrapped up in an hour, and a show like "Survivor" is just television.
Jenn's death reminds us that we must do everything in our power to "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast" cancer. I feel a deep connection to Jenn not just as a fellow "Survivor" competitor, but as someone who has faced his own battle with cancer, and been lucky enough to beat it. I live my life in honor of those not as fortunate and share a keen understanding of what Jenn went through in the face of cancer; the fears one has to overcome, the hopes that one has to hold on to, and the finality one has to face. I have no doubt that Jenn maintained the utmost level of dignity and grace as she fought back against this disease, because that is how she lived her whole life. But as we've come to learn watching the show, in life -- sometimes challenges are too difficult to overcome. The greatest tragedy in losing someone like Jenn is that it was clear she had so much left to offer the world.
How do we best honor her memory? Like the show, we must form alliances with one another to create a better chance of surviving the fight against cancer, a disease that claims the lives of 1500 Americans a day. It's up to us to knock on every door, to pursue every opportunity, to lobby congress, to raise funds, to do whatever we can to beat this disease.
It starts with believing that it is possible. Jenn was a positive force and a role for many, both on camera and off. Jenn is irreplaceable, one of those rare shooting stars that those who knew her were lucky to catch. We must carry in our hearts her memory and the memory of all those lost as we bravely stand up to cancer.
Today is World Cancer Day, and while we may take today to reflect and think of those we have lost to cancer, we must do more -- we must act. The two themes of World Cancer Day are cancer prevention and improving the lives of patients battling the disease.
We owe it to our family and friends to take the proven precautions that help reduce the risk of cancer: sunscreen, not-smoking, eating more vegetables. We also must be tireless advocates till this disease is wiped off the face of the earth. Too many of us have lost someone like Jennifer Lyon, and too many of us are battling our own diagnosis to not take a stand.
Join Stand Up To Cancer in updating your Facebook status with a message that shares who you are taking a stand for.
Visit standup2cancer.org to update your Facebook status and share with the world who you are honoring on World Cancer Day. It may seem like an overly-simple message, but in the end it could save a life.