To Be a Cancer Survivor

[NCSD Guest Blog Post by Bárbara Padilla]

Bárbara Padilla

For those who don’t know me, let me introduce myself: I am Barbara Padilla – singer, actress, speaker, wife, mother, daughter, sister, artist, cook, and all those things in between. I am also a cancer survivor.

It all started when I was very young – yes, younger than I am now! I was attending the school of music and the school of languages in my hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. I wanted to be an opera singer.

Although nothing hurt, I was tired very often. As I was attending two schools and working on weekends, I brushed it off and went on without paying much attention. Then I started noticing some hard growths around my neck. They did not hurt. At first I assumed they were muscles that were developing from all the singing I was doing, but they were not symmetrical, so I decided to have them checked.

After a series of tests, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage IV.

My faith was seriously tested, but, as I’ve come to realize as a survivor, my faith is often tested. After a treacherous five-year fight that included all kinds of chemotherapy, radiation, and awful concoctions, I got a bone marrow transplant that finally put an end to the illness. I am not going to venture into any of the details. But believe me, it was not short of nightmares, scares, and many miraculous events.

Still, the most remarkable – and beautiful – part of my cancer journey was the function it had in carving the path of my life.

In my search for recovery, I traveled to Houston, TX, where, aside from a second opinion, I got a full scholarship to attend the music program at the University of Houston. Had I not been sick, I would have never come to Houston, where I got my master’s degree in Music, met my husband, and adopted our beautiful daughter, Elizabeth.

Also, I may never have ended up second runner-up on America’s Got Talent. When that happened, my career took an incredible and unexpected turn. A totally different horizon appeared before my eyes.

And the best part is that I have a story to tell. I have so much to say! And now I have the opportunity to speak about what it means to be a survivor.

If I could use only one word to describe the meaning of my message, it would be Gratitude. I am grateful for the cancer experience and all that it brought. In reality, the illness gave me much more than it took away.

Life is like a fabric, and we are the threads. Sometimes we are caregivers, and other times our job is to be the recipients of an outpouring of care and love. When we are stricken with infirmity, we inspire others to be generous as we become the object of their kindness. Our vulnerability brings out the best in our fellow humans. Our hearts, then, are filled with love and gratitude.

Survivors don’t have an extra power, nor we are a different kind of animal. We are just fortunate sojourners that have experienced human kindness at a different level. So, our job is to keep on passing the flame to those who are fighting, and to those who give care and comfort.

At the end of the journey, you want to say, “I did what I could,” and not, “I could have done more.”

Bárbara Padilla is a classical crossover soprano and America’s Got Talent runner-up. While in college, Bárbara was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma; she fought the disease while keeping up with her music studies. She received aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments that should have damaged her vocal cords. Doctors predicted she would never sing again, but after a life-saving bone marrow transplant, astoundingly, the quality of her voice was unaffected. Learn more about Barbara at, on Facebook at, and @barbarapadiva on Twitter.

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