I believe everything happens for a reason—and my life experience is no exception. When I look into the eyes of families at the Ronald McDonald House, I can see that they are physically and emotionally drained. I don’t have all the answers and I can’t take away their pain. But I can look beyond the tubes and wires, see through the bruises and scars, and understand where they are coming from. I can offer them hope.
I’ve been in these families’ shoes. I was a sick child. Diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of seven, I understand what it means to have your world—and that of your entire family—turned upside down. We came to understand that one sick family member means the entire family is sick. Each person suffers in a different way while coping with the stress of a sick child and trying to maintain some kind of normal life.
I realized a long time ago that I had a story to tell. When you’re young and very ill, it’s sometimes hard to see the light of the end of a very dark tunnel. That’s why I decided to use my experiences to help others, to show them that anything is possible. In 2009, I published my memoir, Everything’s Okay. It has been my goal to provide courage and inspiration to those who are going through what my family suffered, whether it’s a child battling a disease or parents trying to understand what is happening inside their child’s body.
My foundation has gifted more than 2,000 books to hospitals and organizations all around the country, and 100 percent of the profits from book sales are donated to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where I fought and won my own battle against cancer. Additionally, my husband and I have donated close to $1 million to pediatric AIDS and cancer research over the last 30 years. In an effort to reach an even wider audience, I partnered with Round Table Companies to turn my story into a comic book, which will be released in September to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
I spent my entire youth fighting to survive, and I made a conscious decision not to remain a victim of my disease. Sometimes I look at my childhood as a dream; it doesn’t seem as if it was really me who went through the diagnosis and treatments, the fear and fighting. Writing this book as an adult has allowed me to reflect on the fact that these experiences are clearly why I am who I am today. Everything does happen for a reason, and I am thankful for the opportunity to help families fight the hard times and find hope for the future.
Alesia Shute is the author of Everything’s Okay. The comic book version will be released in September. You can find out more about Alesia and The Alesia Shute Foundation at www.everythingsokaybook.com, www.Facebook.com/AlesiaShuteEverythingsOkay, or www.Twitter.com/EverythingsOkay.