What courage means to me

By Mackenzi Bell-Nugent

Monday, May 2 2016


I pride myself on my optimism. I am a very positive person and live every day by my motto: “Live well, love much, laugh often.” I have had this motto since my first cancer diagnosis on November 30, 2004. 

I was a scared 13-year-old girl whose main concern was losing my hair. Naiveté unexpectedly helped me through my cancer treatment. All I knew was that I was sick and needed to get better. I really didn’t understand the full implications of having cancer. I stayed positive and went into remission before my 14th birthday in May 2005.

When I relapsed on June 28, 2010, however, I fully understood the ramifications of having cancer. I had just finished my freshman year at The Colorado College. I knew I was seriously sick and that there was a chance that the cancer could win.

My worst fear had always been relapsing, but upon learning I had cancer again, my primary emotion wasn’t fear but anger. I had never been so mad in my life! I just wanted to give up, and initially I even refused a bone marrow transplant.

That attitude did not last too long. I allowed myself to feel all of the emotions I had and be honest with myself.  After some time, I recognized that anger and frustration weren’t going to get me anywhere. So I chose positivity. Just like when I was 13, I told myself, “I am sick and need to get better.” 

I decided to make the most out of every day throughout my treatment and pepper my life with love and laughter. I made it through my bone marrow transplant and was able to get my bachelor’s degree, join a professional dance company and travel the world—all because of my choice to be positive.  Today, I’ve been cancer-free for more than five years.

Courage means staying positive in the face of adversity. It is being optimistic when you have every right to be sad, upset, terrified, angry and feel defeated. Courage is finding that silver lining and seeing the glass as half full. That’s what beating cancer taught me. That’s what courage means to me.

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