'I took life for granted;' Cancer survivor vows to help others through 'Light the Night'

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Posted at 10:03 AM, Oct 14, 2021

CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- Home is where you’ll always find Josalyn Wilkins’ heart.

“Its my own space,” said Josalyn. “I feel safe.”

But the woman from Chesterfield is itching to globetrot.

“I just want to travel the world,” said Josalyn. “That is my goal is to see every continent and state at least.”

Josalyn doesn’t waste a day. She learned early how precious life can be.

“I took life for granted,” she said. “It drives me to keep going because there is so much I want to see and so much I want to do.”

Four years ago doctors, delivered a blow.

“When I got the official diagnosis he said it was Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma,” said Josalyn.

She was just 24 years old.

“It happened so fast,” recalled Josalyn. “It went from finding out I have cancer to getting chemo in a week.”

Staying upbeat was a challenge. Especially when she lost her hair.

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“I cried about it a lot. I cried about it a lot. That hurt me more than cancer itself,” said Josalyn.

At first, Josalyn didn’t share her diagnosis.

“I didn’t even want to accept it. It took a lot for me to grasp it and say, ‘I have cancer,’” said Josalyn.

Loved ones rallied around her.

“They’re the best to me because they come from every walk of life I have whether its church, work, family, school, elementary school. Somebody from every part of my life is there,” said Josalyn.

She turned to one organization for help and guidance.

“LLS. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” said Josalyn.

At the LLS’s annual “Light the Night” fundraiser, Josalyn’s Angels appeared.

“I don’t want to brag, but I think I have the best team because when they show up, they show out,” said Josalyn.

In January of 2018, doctors declared Josalyn cancer-free.

Her mom Lawanda could not be more proud.

“It really didn’t hit me until it was all over. Because she is my only one,” said Lawanda. “She has lived to tell her story. She is a testimony to others and a miracle to me.”

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Three years removed from ringing the bell, Josalyn is leaving cancer behind — but not the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“LLS is very heart-warming and they make everyone feel special,” said Josalyn.

She now volunteers her time on LLS’s Mission Committee.

“I just had to do something to say ‘thank you,’” said Josalyn.

Last year’s "Light the Night" was a virtual affair, but Josalyn’s family, friends and neighbors still carried on their fall tradition.

This year will be no different.

“The party doesn’t stop because we can’t meet with other teams. We still got to light the night,” said Josalyn.

She said the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society touches her soul.

“Honestly, staying positive is just as important as getting the treatment,” proclaimed Josalyn.

She is dedicating herself to those who are walking in her shoes.

“I got to shine a light on it. Not only did it affect me, I am realizing it affects a lot of other people. Too many,” said Josalyn.

Josalyn Wilkins is embracing her second chance at life.

“It was an eye opener because I went from thinking I have all my life to do whatever, and then I realize I don’t,” she said.

Now 28, this cancer survivor isn’t wasting one minute. Whether she is far away, or in the comfort of home.

“Like I said I love traveling. My goal is to hit every state. I’ve been to half of them,” said Josalyn. “Having had cancer just gave me a reason to just really cherish every moment.”

If you would like information on the LLS "Light the Night" event, click here.

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