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The Power of Chicken Broth

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I often spend time reminiscing on the eleven days I spent missing school. Although it sounds heavenly, five of those eleven days were spent in the hospital, and the other six were spent lying on my bed, occasionally rolling over to puke in the white bucket my mom had put aside. To say the least, the vast amount of work, tests and projects I had to make up for school could easily be the new definition of the word horrendous. Nonetheless, the “bright message” that my parents always tell me to take away from the experiences I have, was actually applicable to my sickness, as I was able to look beyond it and see something much greater.

Last year, a good family friend, whom I also practice math with, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Devastated and scared, my mom and I brought her flowers and cheesecake every lesson that she insisted on having due to her intense passion for math. She underwent chemotherapy, as well as surgery, but never took a break from practicing my polynomial functions, despite the severe fatigue she suffered from as a result of the chemo. Regardless, I continued to see her every Wednesday and Friday for an hour, but often found myself falling asleep during the tutor session while waiting for her to solve some of the simple factoring problems. “The cancer, the chemo, the whole sickness has weighed me down. My whole body is tired, my brain is tired, it wont function the right way anymore.” She said in her strong, Russian accent. “Health is everything, you must remember! Math skills can be learnt, but health can disappear within seconds.” I smiled; laughed a little as the connection we had over how much I despised math became quite lucid, and thanked her for the time she had dedicated to helping me learn the correct method to use when graphing polynomial functions. Unfortunately, I felt irritated over my inability to understand what she what going through, as I had never really lost my health to a sickness besides the few times I acquired stomach bugs, sinus infections and pneumonia. However, the annual Indian cross country trip my school participates on every February, and the eleven days I spent slurping chicken broth in the hospital, helped me apprehend the importance of health.

The doctors said they thought it was Dengue Fever, Malaria or “something we don’t know yet, but will test for.” Although the sickness I acquired, Gastrointestinal Disorder, is nothing like Dengue Fever or Malaria, the five out of eleven days I spent in the hospital, and six other days I spent rolling around in my bed puking every five minutes, lead me to believe that any sickness whose symptoms include a fever of 103, dehydration and constant headaches doesn’t need a name, it just needs a cure. Nonetheless, suffering from an infection that took away my ability to eat anything other then chicken broth and crackers was something I found particularly devastating. From pizza to asparagus, or salmon to steak, anyone and everyone who knows me well, knows that I love food. The three bowls of chicken broth and two packets of crackers I was able to nibble on from time to time lead me to appreciate two of, what I consider to be, the most important things in life, food and health. The extensive amount of times I spent defecating every half hour after barely consuming the watery soup laid out for me every morning, afternoon and night resulted in my constant awaiting of one of the nurses whom I took a particular liking too, especially after she helped me with my Arabic homework. “Noor” I would say in an angelic voice. “When will I be able to eat again?” She knew this question was coming after hearing the sweet tone in my voice when calling her name. “Just wait until you are better habibti, take care of yourself. Health is everything, sah?” she said while squeezing my cheeks. “Sah” I repeated to her in a quite, hopeless voice. I immediately thought of my Russian math tutor, and how her encounter with cancer, regressing health, and perspective on ones physical, mental and emotional well being, lead her to love and take care of the body she has. The grumbling of my stomach coerced me to miss food, but the true hatred I attained for laying on a bed all day, reading and running to the bathroom, was driven by my inability to carry out the things I love. I dreamed of jumping out of the hospital bed, and sprinting back home, where I would return to my daily routine, even if that included math class and the intense homework that followed along with it.
Although Gastrointestinal Disorder, and ovarian cancer are two very different illnesses, the appreciation of health one receives when he or she is sick is something that cannot be learned or understood in any other situation. The countless amount of ill slum kids that followed my cross-country team and I around the markets of India, begging for money, was something I felt deep sympathy for, constantly turning around and giving my money, but it was also something I couldn’t relate too. Seeing, hearing and experiencing are all needed to comprehend the true meaning of an occurrence. “Health is everything” is not a complicated, wordy statement, but it’s meaning holds all the value. Fortunately, the sickness I acquired from my trip to India, where I witnessed millions of young, ailing children begging for food and money, is the reason I am able to fathom the utterance spoken from both my math tutor, and nurse. The ability to run around town, walk to school, dance with friends, go on a date, and/or study math are things we must learn to appreciate as they represent a sign of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing that we aren’t always able to see or admire. I thank my math tutor every session for continuing to see me despite the fatigue she attained as a result of her chemotherapy. The lessons she has taught me, whether pertaining to polynomial functions, the quadratic formula, or the significance of health, are principles I will remember forever.

All in all, despite the fact that it took a three day trip to India, filled with running up mountains and walking through markets, eleven days of defecating and puking all over my room and hospital, and the constant inquiring of when I would be able to eat, to understand the meaning of health and my math tutors experience, the appreciation I was able to acquire for my body was worth both the horrendous amount of school work I had to make up, and the vast amount of times I had to swallow cold, slimy chicken broth.



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