SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - Many of you know Seth Strickland. He lives in Shelby, battled bone cancer during his junior high and high school career and remains one of the most grounded teenagers I've ever met. I saw him in late April and couldn't believe his maturity.
Seth graduates in June from Crest High School.
He had to write a speech for his senior English class.
His mom, Sharon, secretly sent it to me because there's a message in it for all of us. She was speechless when he read it to her.
I post now as A) an honor to Seth and how far he's come and B) a little holiday weekend inspiration straight from the mind, mouth and perspective of one of our longtime ?#MollysKids?.
Seth -- you're incredible. We couldn't be more proud of you.
Congrats on EVERYTHING.
"To the class of 2016:
We made it.
Not only have we survived three principal changes and numerous policy changes, we survived triumph and tragedy, and ultimately have become a closer class because of it. Thinking back to the previous graduated classes in our high school careers, I cannot remember a class that seems to be as close as ours. This is something that is bittersweet to me because I know we are all excited to get out of here, but at the same time, I know how much I will miss this class. There is something to be said about a class as close as ours. I think we all have a life experience or piece of advice that we could share with each other before we all part ways, so today I will give you mine.
I think most of you have known this since it happened when we were just in sixth grade, but I have had a five year long battle with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Beginning in the summer between sixth and seventh grade, I was diagnosed and I saw the world I knew shatter around me into a completely new reality.
I had cancer.
Even then, I had no idea how much it would change my life.
Ahead of my 12-year-old self were surgeries too numerous to count, and seemingly endless days and weeks spent in the hospital getting chemotherapy. It all seemed like a bad dream. I did not understand why I had to go through this, but I pushed through, never losing hope. Nine long months later I was declared cancer free.
I resumed the life I had just begun, only to find out the bad dream was not over. My osteosarcoma had metastasized to my lungs and I would relapse four more times after my initial diagnosis.
Now, nearly six years later and one hundred percent cancer-free, I realize cancer has taken a lot from me, but perhaps has given me more.
Legendary @NC State basketball coach, Jim Valvano is someone I admire deeply and is the person who immediately comes to mind when I need to feel inspired to keep going and never give up. It was not until I heard Valvano's speech and his words "cancer may take away all of my physical abilities, but it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul," that I realized how much I had actually gained from my experience.
Yes. Cancer has taken away some of my physical abilities, but it has only strengthened my heart, mind, and soul.
This is now the message we should preach. Never give up. Don't ever give up. These words form a simple mantra we must live by in order to be successful at anything. Jimmy V helps us to realize we can come out of any battle fists held high in victory.
I now try to radiate these words in everything I do in life.
So should you.
Valvano's widow speaks of how he would often keep notecards in his blazer with short-term and long-term goals. They might read "Beat UNC Chapel Hill," or "Make the NCAA Tournament." But the card found in Valvano's blazer at the time of his death read simply: "Beat Cancer." The positivity reflected in a man whose days were numbered are an inspiration to many, and if I can only be a fraction of that inspiration to anyone else I will see my entire battle with cancer to be entirely worth the difficult times. For it was the words of this great man that have made me realize that life is precious, and the will to live is even more so.
Jim Valvano never lost hope, and we should not either.
I implore you, class of 2016, never give up. Don't ever give up.