Annette Crabtree was 14-years-old when she was diagnosed with cancer. It was the week before she started high school. One day, in the middle of the night, she woke up with lower back pain. After visiting the hospital she was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.

Within 7 days she was on the operating table unable to feel her legs due to the pain and numbness. The cyst was removed and she immediately began radiation therapy. Annette also spent 18 months undergoing chemotherapy. She went to school Monday through Wednesday and had treatments every Thursday, with a tutor the rest of the week.

It was a scary and stressful time in her life, but the treatments worked.  And now, she is cancer free.

What It Means to be a Survivor

Annette says that a survivor lives beyond the challenges of life with grace and dignity. Survivors are people who face the odds and find value in their situation. They continue to thrive no matter the circumstance.

Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer at an age when all you want to do is have fun and fit in with the other kids? While most kids are worrying about homework and extra-curricular activities, Annette also had to worry about her health, cancer treatment, and what that meant for her future.

“I was determined to stay positive and live my life like a normal teen,” she said. “I threw myself into theatre projects and school activities to stay busy. My focus was not on my disease.”

And what role did positivity play in her recovery? Any cancer patient should know that while it’s important to stay positive as best as you can, it’s ok to not be able to reach that place all of the time. It’s more important that you stay true to yourself and practice self-love and self-care.

“You CAN survive it, but survival doesn’t mean you’ll always have a positive attitude,” Annette said. “Be angry, be sad, be ridiculous. Be whatever you need to get through it.”

Happiness & Kindness… And why They’re so Important

At some point or another we all experience anxiety, fear, hardship, tragedy, or stress. Sometimes more than one of those at once, and some of us more often than others. But it’s vital to choose to rise us and find your happiness — to create your happiness.

“Unhappiness is a waste of time. Whether it’s because of envy, disappointment, holding your feelings in, lack of passion, relationship issues, negativity… have patience,” Annette said. “Set yourself free and live beyond the petty concerns. It’s all about ego and choice. When you make happiness your mission in life, it will follow you.”

And kindness? That’s just as important. When we live in a world where so many people are in pain and yet still put on a brave a smiling face, you never know who needs your kindness the most.

“Manifesting kindness to others can solve the world’s problems. It multiplies when we contribute. It’s a simple concept. Pay it forward. What you do matters more than what you know.”

Life After Cancer

A life after cancer can be scary or sometimes uncertain, but that’s even more of a reason to live your life to the fullest and find ways to give back that bring you joy. Annette has volunteered for Make-A-Wish Foundation since 1997.

“I wanted to give back the smiles they gave me when my wish was granted,” she said. “I volunteer at wish events and speak about the donation and wish process.”

When Annette went into remission at age 16, her wish of spending a day on set with celebrity crush Kirk Cameron and the cast of Growing Pains was granted through Make-A-Wish Nebraska.

“Growing Pains also got me through quite a few of my own growing pains,” she said. “It kept me company while I was in the hospital getting treatments and at home while I was recovering. The entire day was magical!”

Annette is also passionate about health and fitness, yoga, nature, photography, and traveling. She’s traveled to Mexico and Canada with plans to conquer Italy and Greece next alongside her family, which includes her son whose achievements she’s always proud of.

Annette is also currently writing a book for cancer survivors, so those who are experiencing the same thing she did have somewhere they can turn to for inspiration, comfort, and support.

Want to follow her journey? For  more inspiration and motivation, you can find Annette on instagram @Taketheride2017 and on Facebook, at Annette Crabtree.