Every toddler has been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most adults expect to hear the common responses of teacher, firefighter, or astronaut. While I too answered with such expected responses, my academic and physical experiences in high school are what have impelled my future goals. In the beginning stages of our lives, we often are too naïve and never plan on experiencing tragic circumstances. We expect life to mirror what we see in movies, such as a perfect high school experience or falling in love at first sight, and any other stereotypical event that society foists upon each generation. These high expectations of the ideal “American Dream” cause us to neglect the worth of smaller achievements in life (such as beating a cross country record or receiving an “A” in AP Chemistry). Unfortunately, we continue to believe this delusion until tragedy awakes us and we come to appreciate small victories.
When I was twelve, I experienced such a disaster; young and naïve as most twelve year olds are, I never imagined that my mother would develop breast cancer. While the support of others was outstanding, at this stage in my life, I did not know how to deal with this hardship. While I am pleased to say that my mother successfully beat the cancer and now continues her remission, my family will never forget this experience. Not only did the cancer bring us closer together through all the surgeries and visits to Lake Forest Hospital, but we now have a close-knit relationship that not many other families can claim. It will always be difficult for me to remember my mother as she constantly vomited and slowly lost her hair, but I know her dependency upon me at this early stage in my life is what has molded our unique bond. Life is too short to live with wonders and regrets; surrounding oneself with supporters is the greatest network a person can have.
Embarking upon high school, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a freshman. While this disease itself is not too common, it is rare in fifteen year olds. Although this disability set me back in academics and athletics, I have learned to look at my unfortunate encounter from a new perspective. Resulting from my illness, I worked to overcome the physical setback of not being able to participate in athletics, the emotional distress of medically inflicted depression, and the academic hardship of a lack of focus and drive. While I know that my chronic condition could have been much worse, it is some aspects a special gift that has taught me to cherish every moment of life and to listen to my body.
The individual experiences that we face help us to build our own stories and shape the people who we ultimately become. As we grow older, we naturally grow wiser, cherishing that personal record and that “A”. Although my own experiences were devastating at the time, they are what helped me to respect my body’s limitations and live life to the fullest. While my mother’s illness was horrifying in the moment, her drive to defeat the disease ultimately has impacted my goal of helping those in need.
My drive and passion to overcome the seemingly impossible brings me to the next chapter in my life: pursuing my undergraduate degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences. As I said before, I was a rare case. However, now that I have steadily recovered, my motivation to help the sick could not be stronger. While it is very possible that realities might slightly vary down the road, I know that my own intentions and purpose in this world are to help those in need. Because, trust me, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a tough battle that not even a firefighter can fight alone.