It was an honor for me to be chosen to speak at my 8th grade graduation. I was nervous because I’ve never given a speech before to this many people. About 1,500 when you count students and their parents.
I also felt a lot of pressure because I wanted to show how my middle-school experience has helped me with my fight against cancer.
I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma in March of this year. In other words, I have a cancerous bone tumor. I’ve been through six rounds of chemo and am bald as a cue ball except for my whispies (the name I’ve given to my remaining hairs).
I’ve also put on 18 pounds through the process, with grit and determination; it’s hard to eat when doing chemo because your taste buds change. However the more you eat the better you feel, because the fat protects your organs.
As I wrote my speech I knew I wanted to share what I thought was special about our middle school. I wanted to leave my fellow students and their families with an appreciation for what we all learned, and I wanted to share how middle school changed me.
Here is my written speech:
During my time in middle school I was taught a lot of subjects such as math, science and language art social studies, but what I really learned was something a little different.
I learned how to be more confident through my experiences with WEB (a leadership program) and natural helpers (a peer mentor program). I learned that having a positive attitude can go a long way during a tough math test. I learned how to have more patience by working through group projects, and that it takes hard work to get results. I learned that having a good group of friends is invaluable.
I also learned that I have cancer. But this isn't a speech about cancer, because cancer does not define me. Cancer is something I have to beat. It's a mountain I have to climb. In the equestrian world, it's a five-foot oxer that I have to clear and land safely on the other side of.
And I will land safely, because I've learned that having confidence and a positive attitude can make all the difference when faced with a challenge. I learned that having patience and working hard goes a long way when you're up against a really long treatment plan. I learned that having a good group of friends can carry and support you through the toughest times of your life.
I also learned that I'm part of the best class ever. Thank you to everyone for everything you've done for me. Here's to us, the class of 2017.
I hope you’re able to watch the video on YouTube. Graduation was amazing and lots of fun. It made me forget that in two days I would have 5 inches of my right femur removed and replaced with titanium.
One day, I’d love to find the person who started the applause when I delivered the line "Cancer does not define me." That applause made me feel supported. It eased my nerves and helped me deliver the rest of the speech. The standing ovation filled my heart with pride and thankfulness.
Battling day to day is hard, there’s no sugar-coating that fact. The knowledge that all my classmates and their parents are behind me helps tremendously. Graduation was a fantastic day. Being able to walk with my friends, socialize, and have fun before my surgery has given me a very positive memory.
I’m glad to say that my surgery went well. I can now be officially known as Titanium Girl. Now begins my road to recovery — physical therapy and 18 more weeks of chemotherapy. After that, I just want to be your average high-school kid riding horses and spending time with friends.
Kat Tiscornia is a Seattle almost 9th grader who loves horseback riding (eventing), skiing, and spending time with friends and family. She is fighting a rare form of cancer and raising money for research and treatment. Follow her story on Tumblr.