February 13, 2008
By Stephanie Kincaid, Clarkston, MI

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

As poignant an aphorism I believe Nietzsche’s statement to be, I never expected that I would experience it myself, at least not in a literal sense. Although I have faced several challenges in my life, one stands apart from the rest; the surgery I underwent at the beginning of my sophomore year was threatening physically as well as academically. However, the event that could have become a roadblock in the path of my education actually was the turning point that helped me develop into the student I am today. It has had the greatest influence on my education, and my life.

Two days prior to the start of sophomore year, I started to have agonizing pain in my lower abdomen. After being rushed to the emergency room, and subjected to several hours of painful testing, I was informed that I had developed an ovarian cyst the size of a “Nerf” football. It was necessary to operate immediately. Before I knew it, the gas mask was on and I was going under the knife. Needless to say, I didn’t quite realize the implications of my surgery until after I emerged from my anesthesia-induced haze about 32 hours later. Although I recovered quite quickly, I spent the first couple of days of the new school year in the hospital. The following week and a half I spent at home, trying to reclaim my normal routine.

At this point, I had two choices. I could use my surgery as an excuse to slack off in my classes, or I could push myself to catch up. Fortunately, I chose the latter. It was difficult, both mentally and physically, to concentrate on schoolwork when I was in a perpetual state of fatigue. Yet it seemed like the harder I worked, the quicker I began to recover. The day of my return to Clarkston High School, I felt as though I had a decent handle on the material I missed. However, I was still pretty surprised when my history teacher told me that after four days of being back at school, I had the highest grade in my class! I worked so hard to catch up that in some of my classes I actually ended up ahead.

The chaos of sophomore year had a profound impact on the rest of my high school career. The ordeal allowed me to get a glimpse of my academic potential. From then on, I began to take rigorous courses and become involved in many extracurricular activities. When I was back to normal, I felt that I could do anything. So I learned how to balance school and sports. I learned how to maintain good grades under pressure. And I learned how to push myself into becoming a full-time learner instead of a day-to-day student. What might have become a significant setback illuminated my greatest strengths. My surgery didn’t kill me, but I can say that I am a stronger student, and person, by overcoming it.

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