Living My Second Life

December 2, 2008
By Jillian Stackhouse, Alton Bay, NH

I should not be here right now. I should be in a grave, my body six feet under the ground and decaying. The leaves that are now turning bright yellows, reds and oranges should be lightly decorating my cold gray tombstone. The truth is I should have died two years ago, and for some reason I am still here.

It was early November during my sophomore year. I had just overcome a virus, but I was still running a high temperature. My mother was concerned and thought that I should see the doctor. I remember refusing her and saying the fever would run its course. Then late at night, I remember feeling a sudden stabbing pain across my abdomen. My mother was frantic, and called our neighbor who was a nurse. She came over and examined me. She told me it was not my appendix, but was something else. She urged me to go to the doctor and be checked out as soon as possible.

He could not figure out what it was. My appendix was fine, but something was wrong with my abdominal region. It was an MRI that gave the doctor a clue as to what was going on. The scan showed my liver was double the size of an average person’s. Matching previous tests to the scan, the doctor called my parents with his diagnosis. I had Wilson’s disease, a deadly disease that kills your liver. There is no cure, and the treatments can make you worse. The only thing you can do is pray for a transplant while dying a slow painful death.
Being told you are going to die is hard enough, but the doctor had left it up to my parents to inform me. I will never forget their faces. They were marked with sadness, pity, and disbelief as they handed me my death notice. As they told me, I remembered how my uncle had reacted six years before, when he was told he was going to die of cancer. He handled it with strength, but at the same time you could see it ate away at him. As my parents delivered the news, my mind was made up. I was going to handle this with even more strength than he did. I was going to act like nothing had changed, especially when I was around my family.

That December, I went to Boston Children’s Hospital for a consultation and possible biopsy. My parents were with me and both of them held my hand when we entered the hospital. I remember everybody looking at me with pity, and hating it. They saw me as a girl who was about to lose her life before she had lived it. The only person who didn’t look at me as if I was going to drop dead at any second was my doctor. She was the best on the east coast, and is the only reason why I am still here. She reviewed my tests before she made any decisions regarding my prognosis. She was the one who found the glitch in the MRI, and was the one who told me three hours later, that I did not have Wilson’s disease.

March came and I was still in agony. At this point, I could not get out of bed on my own. Getting through the school day was nearly impossible. I was sent home often because the pain was unbearable. After it was deemed that I was unable to make it through a normal school day, I underwent rigorous testing to figure out what was wrong. In the end, I was told my intestinal tract had shut down entirely because of several serious factors. I was also given strict instructions on how to treat my condition. If I overdosed or under dosed on my medicine, I would die.

Within a few weeks I was getting better. To make up for all the school I missed, I stayed after nearly every day so I could catch up and pass all my classes. Most of my teachers were more than happy to comply. Within a year, I was completely normal. Now, nearly two years later, I am fully recovered.

Because of this experience, I view life differently than most people. Each day is a new adventure, and I try to seize it and take advantage of it. When I was sick there were so many things I couldn’t do. I know now that the world is a place of opportunity. I try to take advantage of every experience I can get. I work hard for things I am passionate about. These are qualities that not many people have, and these are qualities that I could offer your school if I were accepted. If accepted, I could use these qualities not only in academics, but community service and the workforce after graduation. My drive and my determination for success would be a valuable asset for your school that you could not find just anywhere. The passion and motivation I have exists in people that are supposed to be dead, people like me who have been given a second chance at life.

The author's comments:
maybe, maybe no

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