William Shakespeare once wrote: “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”
Gabrielle Flank is one of those people who is controlling her destiny, and so far, she’s doing a great job at it. She has a positive attitude, and she is constantly motivating and inspiring others. It’s all because of a journey that began eight years ago – one that dramatically altered the direction of her life, but in the best way possible.
In June of 2008, Gabrielle was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which accounts for 25% of all cancers in children under the age of 15.
“Being diagnosed was a completely life-altering occurrence. I was only 10 when I got diagnosed, so I understood I was sick, but I could not fully grasp the gravity of the situation.”
For the next 2 1/2 years, she would undergo harsh chemotherapy that was tough on her body. She dropped 36 pounds, had difficulty walking, lost her hair, and many other unpleasant and painful side effects that she often tries to forget.
Despite the painful memories, there are more than enough good ones that Gabrielle can recall, and most of them are about her amazing support system – her family.
Throughout chemo, her family was strong and stayed positive for her, even though she knows it must have been hard for them to watch her go through treatment.
“My sister missed her high school prom and other events to spend time with me, my mom left her job to take care of me, and my dad took time off work to make sure he never missed a doctor’s appointment. To this day, my dad has never missed one of my doctor appointments. I am so blessed and grateful to have a family who was there for me and who was and is so extremely loving and supportive.”
In addition to having family members to help her stay positive, she also had an amazing team of doctors and nurses who knew exactly how to make her feel comfortable, and they always found ways to make her laugh.
She remembers a funny story during treatment when she had to go to the OR for a regular spinal tap. Most of the nurses, like her favorite, David, knew that she didn’t like getting leads in her chest until she was fast asleep. This was the one thing during treatments that she could control, so she was pretty sassy about it, and made sure everyone knew it.
“I was so blessed to have had nurses and doctors who understood what I was going through, and who allowed me to control that bit of my time in the OR.”
Unfortunately, David had a new person with him that day that didn’t know of Gabrielle’s preference, so as she started to put the lead on her chest and open the needle for the procedure David yelled, “Oh no, you don’t want to do that yet!”
Finally, after many hospital visits and memories shared with family members and caregivers, Gabrielle received her last chemo treatment on November 3, 2010. Since then, she’s been doing a few things that most normal high school students to do, like playing tennis and baking healthy treats. But beyond that, she’s done more in her 18 years than most adults do in their lifetime.
In fact, she’s become a teen entrepreneur, philanthropist, public speaker, Huffington Post blogger, founder and co-founder of two companies, and host of two shows. Since 2011, she and her sister have worked together to bring celebrities to meet sick children, and just recently, she signed with a literary agent to publish her first book!
Here’s a little more information about her two biggest endeavors:
She co-owns this natural bath and beauty company with her sister Brittney. They have an online store, and the products are sold in stores across the United States, including select Whole Food Market locations. A portion of the proceeds are donated to childhood cancer research.
Launched in January, Gabrielle uses this platform to motivate, uplift and inspire others. She offers weekly podcasts – The Gab Show and Inspiring Honey Show – which are available for download in iTunes.
In the next five years, Gabrielle hopes to continue working with her two companies, speaking publicly and giving back. “I would like to become a published author, college graduate, and most importantly, I want to continue to be an advocate for childhood cancer and continue to positively impact others.”
It was a children’s cancer diagnosis that steered her toward a destiny of giving back to others, especially the young superheroes who endure the same harsh treatments she once did, and who still smile and learn to value and appreciate life. It’s children’s cancer research that she believes will one day offer better treatments that are less invasive, giving these kids a chance at normalcy in their lives.
“Finding a cure is imperative to society. Without children’s cancer research, I would not be alive today.”
Gabrielle is, without a doubt, destined to have an even bigger impact on the cancer community and the world. We are grateful that she has signed on as the PR chair for the Lehigh Valley Superheroes Unite! event, and we are thrilled to call her an ally in the fight against children’s cancer.
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