LS 2016 – Keynote Address by Amit Vaidya

I’m grateful and honored to be amongst you today. We, all of us in this room embody survival, embody hope, embody positivity, and embody the definition of living with cancer.

I have been a long term patient, a long term caregiver and now I’m a long term advocate like all of you here today. We are on the winning side of history for one simple reason – acceptance. Most of the battles you’ll know and see are the denial of accepting a diagnosis, the denial of understanding it, the denial of treating it, the denial of learning how to cope with it and finally the denial to live with it.

My mission is something that has come from within. I’ve had great doctors, amazing support systems and incredible medical and personal successes. I’ve also had not so great doctors, I’ve had to survive in almost complete isolation without any family or friends and I’ve suffered incredible medical and personal losses.

But throughout the whole journey, I’ve had one thing – me. We have to be in tune with our bodies no matter where the road is taking us. Acceptance of that is key. But education and confidence in us is an absolute. Max sees tens of thousands of patients on a regular basis and I’m sure you don’t need any scientific data to see that the patients that are the happiest and often the most “healed” are the ones who are empowered from within.

No doctor, caregiver, family member, friend, organization, spiritual leader can do the job we have to do ourselves. And because that commitment has to come from within, it is our job as advocates to ensure that every patient not only understands this but also has the resources and tools necessary to be the driver of their own medical lives.

So often I find that we blame others for the choices we failed to make. It’s easier then to not feel responsible. But we have to take care of ourselves. Medicine doesn’t stop at a pill, an injection, or checkup. We have to value our lives, our surroundings, and the people in our lives and create a respectable routine that allows us to make sound decisions for our overall wellness.

We are what we eat. We do become what we think. Nature, food, time – these are medicines that only we have the prescriptions for ourselves. The dosages we know but we often don’t follow. But just like our medicine, isn’t it better to live with the side effects than let the disease take control?

As empowerers, we must first hold power ourselves and be examples of possibility and positivity. Beyond that, it is our duty to ensure that we empower not overpower. I believe we are all standing here believing that, but we must find ways to spread this message and remove fear, force and obligation out of the debate of wellness and medicine.

I’m thankful to be standing here alive, happy, and more than anything, in charge of my life. No matter where we come from, that’s a basic right we all deserve. And especially since we are lucky enough to be the chosen ones who have accepted whatever life gives us and trust me, it’s all blessings, the good, the bad and the ugly – we must be in control and we must share this hope that our bodies are capable of far more than what we imagine. We ourselves are part of the solution. We ourselves are part of the prescription. We are our own medicine.