By Hannah Newman
Alex Long, a sophomore health science major and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, gave the survivor speech at Rider’s annual Relay for Life event which took place on April 2 and honored cancer survivors, their caregivers, those who have been affected or would like to contribute to the cause. This event is geared toward raising money for the American Cancer Society through team and individual fundraising of participants as well as games and activities during the event. This year, over $25,000 was raised.
“The hardest part for me was wrapping my head around the fact that I had cancer. It was hard for me to say that word for such a long time,” said Long, who survived a brain tumor and has been in remission since December 2019.
Long was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2019 but was living with symptoms of cancer for several months prior. Unable to keep anything down, not even water, led him to frequent hospital visits and the impression that this may have just been a gastral issue. However, an experience of fainting during this time frame provoked a reason for the hospital to conduct a brain scan where a tumor was discovered.
Long shared his reaction to this news and the mental setbacks he encountered.
“Being so young, I never thought that cancer would be in my near future. It was something I could never see being in this part of my life particularly,” said Long.
This discovery was the official start to Long’s journey of battling cancer. A life consisting of intense rehab, multiple surgeries and radiation was the ultimate test of resilience for Long. He turned his adversity into motivation to keep fighting, stayed on top of his treatments and the procedures that needed to be completed in order for his prior reality to return.
“After experiencing all of those things, I realized that this is my new life, that I was not going to be able to live life the same way I once did. I learned to become more willing to share my feelings and express my mental health state to my family. This really allowed them to assist me in staying sane,” said Long.
The opportunity to speak at Relay for Life was proposed to Long as a result of his determination to convince others that the people that surround them, the opportunity to start a new day every morning and the physical freedom to do whatever one desires are all valuable parts of living that are often overlooked.
Junior human resource major and Chair of Relay for Life Jenna Muller explained her perception on Long’s significance to the Relay community.
“I think having a student perspective connects the cause of relay to everyone there. Alex is such a light on campus. He is able to inspire everyone that they can make a difference in life whether they are a survivor, fighting or are supporting the cause. He is able to share his experience on a more personal level,” said Muller.
Long also shared a message of encouragement to those who are living the life that he once did.
“When I had cancer, it felt like the world stopped. It felt like it stopped for me and nobody else, but that feeling does not last forever. Life will continue and you will be reintegrated into society again. That time will come,” said Long.