When I think of the horror movie "The Ring," I remember what one of my friends said, which explained why she was so afraid of the movie: "It doesn't choose those who are young or old, or sick or healthy, it just chooses. Randomly."
This is how I think of cancer. It has no predetermined plan. It does not matter if you are old or young.
I had the perfect life. It was a bubble that could not be pierced by unhappiness. No one died, no one was sick; we were all happy and loving life.
Then I discovered my grandfather had cancer.
No matter how much I told myself he could live, that he might not die, somehow I still felt as if it was a death sentence. He was so young, only 63.
He fought so hard. Whenever I feel my own life taking a turn for the worse, as if things will never get better, I remember how many years he lived fighting such a scary and difficult disease.
When he died, he died with a huge party going on around him, with all his friends and adult family. An Irish wake. They ate and drank and celebrated Grandpa's life. He died with dignity and honor, surrounded by loved ones.
I honestly don't know how I coped. I never cried alone. I had the compassion of my friends and the support of my family and teachers. I just remembered my grandfather's wish that we should celebrate his life.
That's how we came up with the idea for Hives for Lives — a business my sister and I started where all the profits go to the American Cancer Society [ACS]. We sell honey, honeycomb, beeswax candles, and lip balm, which all come from our beehives in Virginia.
It started out small, with just an idea. During our first year we donated more than $2,000 to the ACS. The next year a man who belonged to my grandparents' "bee club" willed his honey to us, and our little business grew.
We sold at craft fairs, haunted houses, wine festivals, schools, and to anyone else who would buy! We had my uncle sell in California and my grandmother sell in Chicago. We have sold honey in 13 states — even in Puerto Rico!
This year we donated more than $10,000 to the ACS and we're hoping to do more next year. Hopefully our business will help find a cure or just improve the life of someone with cancer.
I feel like Hives for Lives is a way to honor my grandfather. Honor his love, his life, and his strength.
With Hives for Lives reminding me of my grandfather every day, I feel as if I can move on in life, that he will always be alive in my heart and memories. It made me capable of coping with his death, because I felt like I had truly honored his wish of celebrating his life.
I have immortalized his spirit through the business and I honor him every day. He always taught me to make the best of things. Well, Grandpa, that's what I'm doing, for you.