Sen. Emily Couric (D-Charlottesville) used her speech at a Make a Difference Day Dinner in Charlottesville last night to praise those who have made a positive difference in her life as she battles advanced pancreatic cancer.
All proceeds from the event - $46,200 so far - will go to Patient Support Services at the University's Cancer Center, where Couric is receiving treatment.
In attendance were hundreds of members of the University and Charlottesville communities, including many whose lives have been affected by cancer.
Couric, who withdrew from Virginia's lieutenant governor race after her diagnosis in July, described how the illness has changed her physically and emotionally. She also thanked the friends, family members, nurses and physicians who have aided her in the struggle.
She described her ongoing bout with cancer as her "greatest challenge ever" and said the diagnosis took her by surprise.
"I always figured I would live a long life with the usual aches and pains," Couric said about her life before she was diagnosed with cancer.
To combat the disease, Couric undergoes an exhausting regimen that includes two chemotherapy treatments once a week, taking five pills in the morning and nine at night, giving herself injections in her abdomen twice a day and visiting the University Hospital two to three times a week for testing.
She also described the debilitating physical symptoms that have accompanied the disease, including hair loss, fatigue, blisters in the mouth, rashes, and gastrointestinal problems she said she could only describe as "miserable."
Couric said cancer also has presented daunting emotional obstacles. "Cancer is not only physical warfare - it's psychological warfare as well. Cancer rocks you to the very core," she said.
Despite all the hardships, Couric expressed optimism about her chances of overcoming the disease, citing the importance of her "army of supporters:" family, friends, medical professionals, and the community as a whole.
"If I could win this war through my parents' longing, I would be cured tomorrow," she added.
Couric also emphasized the importance of community involvement and financial support in the campaign to eradicate cancer, and she commended the members of the audience for their efforts.
"You can do anything you want to help support cancer patients in their plight. There's no reason why we can't pull together to provide a supportive environment," Couric said.
Make a Difference Day is a national day of volunteerism during which over 2 million people help "make a difference" in the lives of 30 million people. The University's Make a Difference Day, first held in 1998, is now the largest single university volunteer activity in the country.