Meet Gailon Wixson Pursley, a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA who has big plans after she graduates. And let me tell you, this girl will accomplish anything she puts her mind to.
After being diagnosed with a serious sarcoma in June of last year, she was uprooted from her fun, care-free campus-life to immediately begin aggressive treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
From the moment she began treatment, she had one goal in mind: to make it back home to Tacoma, WA by Christmas.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gailon after our first news story broke on KOMO News, our local ABC affiliate. Her mother Yvette wrote to us about Gailon and the loss of her lashes due to chemo.
She was ecstatic! She sent us pictures and emails about how beautiful she felt and how she felt more like herself again. I went to visit Gailon while she was finishing treatment in December and she had that same goal in mind: to be home by Christmas... and she was! Gailon is now a regular at our Giving Events and inspires other Thrivers in our community. She is the perfect example of what it means to thrive; her determination and tenacity to beat cancer no doubt had a huge impact on her recovery.
Who inspires you to thrive?
The people who inspire me the most to thrive are my mom, Yvette Wixson, and my friend Laura Berardinelli. My mom helped me every step of the way during treatment and supported me throughout all of the difficult times. Since she is a breast cancer survivor, she was a huge source of inspiration during my treatment and helped me to stay strong throughout the chemo, hair loss and sickness.
Laura is also a fellow cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at the age of 19 with Hodgkins Lymphoma and was told just yesterday that she is now two years cancer-free. She has been an amazing inspiration to me and it has been so therapeutic to connect with another survivor who is my age.
On a recent visit that she made to Washington, we spent countless hours comparing chemo stories and laughing at the awkward moments we both experienced. During treatment, I was able to talk to her about anything, from ways to gain weight and how to cope with hair to the ridiculous things people said to us after our diagnosis. Meeting her has made this whole crazy journey worth it.
How has beating cancer changed your perspective on life?
Surviving cancer has given me a greater appreciation for life and made me feel like I can survive most anything that life throws my way. Since I am nearing the one year anniversary of being diagnosed with sarcoma, I have been reflecting back on what my life was like before cancer like a lot more. I am much less afraid of taking risks now. My off days seem less bad now because no matter what I am dealing with, I know that it could be worse.
What are some of your favorite beauty products?
My favorite beauty product has be my Kristy eyelashes. They helped me feel like a normal person when I was going through treatment. No one could tell that they were fake, which was so great! I am also a huge fan of Bare Minerals Candle Lit Peach 5-in-1 BB Advanced Performance Cream Eyeshadow. And I am super excited for Thrive's new eyeliner!!
What is your mission?
I want to remove the mystery around cancer. When I was going through treatment, a lot of my friends had questions about my diagnosis and what I was going through and they weren't sure how to ask me about all of it. I would love for people to feel comfortable discussing this illness and the impact it has on peoples’ lives. Laura and I were also talking about how we love to make jokes about our situation and how people never really know if they can laugh at those jokes. So, I want more people to feel comfortable laughing at this situation. When I was able to find humor in my treatment, I was able to find the power to overcome my diagnosis.
What is your favorite quote?
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.” —Stephen Hawking
What advice do you have for fellow Thrivers going through treatment right now?
My advice for people going through treatment is something that was actually told to me by my friend Laura: If you are having trouble keeping your weight up during treatment and nothing tastes or smells good, eat some popsicles. It is such simple advice, but it helped keep me off of a feeding tube during treatment.
Another good piece of advice for people getting mouth sores during chemo is to suck on some ice when the chemo drug is being administered. The ice slows down the blood flow to your mouth, thus reducing mouth sores!