Christopher, 25 years old, was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 20, just 10 days before starting college. He reflects on his journey then and now.

How did cancer change your daily life? This journey has made me appreciate every day. I realized that life doesn’t always go as you plan it and to just take what life throws at you. I became a more positive person. I realized how strong I really am. I was able to see who my true friends and family are.

What did Friends of Karen do for your family that meant the most to you?
Many times when a family member is sick, the attention is focused on that person, and not the family and friends around them. Friends of Karen has helped my family feel included and listened to during a difficult time. My brother and sister were sent gift cards also on holidays and birthdays. It made them feel special. Seeing how much Friends of Karen has helped us, made my family so happy and very grateful.

As you neared the end of your treatment, what did you look forward to the most?
The sense of accomplishment knowing that I finally beat cancer after almost four years. Knowing that my family’s worries and stress about my health will be lessened. What kind of work do you do? I buy and sell antiques and collectibles, and I love what I do. I have been doing this since I was 13 years old. I got into it when my great Grandma passed away. Her house was full of antiques and amazing stuff she collected over the years, and it sparked an interest in me that kept growing. I now have my own collection of amazing antiques.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to spend my time with family and friends. I go upstate every few weeks to hang out with friends and get away for a little bit.

Why is it important to you to “pay it forward” and how have you gone about helping others?
I find it important to help others because that one small act of kindness could mean the world to that person. You never really know what someone is going through. While I was an inpatient at the hospital many times the first year of my treatment, I always tried to find ways to help others.

During Christmas time, I made paper snowflakes to hang up around the hospital floor. It was a very boring place and I thought it needed a little shine to lift people’s spirits. During Easter time, I bought dozens of plastic eggs, filled them with candy and put inspirational quotes inside. I passed them out to all of the doctors, nurses and patients.

When I went back to college after my first year of treatment, I joined the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life on campus. I have also spoken at two Friends of Karen galas and serve on the Friends of Karen Long Island Advisory Board. If my story can help others get through their difficult times, it would mean the world to me.