I believe that experiences that people encounter in life don’t happen to you, but that they happen for you. Events in life that we face shape who we are, and can constantly change or challenge how we think, and I’m sure of this from a personal experience of my own. All my life I never questioned or devoted any thought or time into what cancer patients, or individuals with severe diseases specifically go through. Of course I volunteered at breast cancer walks, donated to fundraisers, or written cards for sick family friends, and naturally I would feel sympathy towards these people. Yet, there were so many more aspects of what they go through, or even what the family members of a sick loved one goes through, that had never occurred to me. It wouldn’t be me I always had thought, I wouldn’t need to face any situation of that sort, there wouldn’t ever be a reason to hear the words from a doctor that I needed surgery like some others that I’ve heard about throughout my life. Until the summer going into 7th grade, one event led to the next, and I had found myself diagnosed with a case of severe ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease that led me to spending the entire summer in the hospital for 2 months. Throughout the course of these few months, my eyes had been open to a lifestyle that made me question how I’d taken my health and wellness so easily for granted for years of my life before this.
One of the first things I had been faced with was being restrained from eating anything for 2 weeks in order for doctors to spot the diagnosis. I’d watch my family eat around me, and even see advertisements of the most disgusting foods on the hospital TV that had never looked more enticing. It had been brought to my attention that something so simple like the freedom and fortune I always have had of being able to eat whatever, and whenever I wanted my whole life, was more important than I thought. I had learned the real feeling of being starved. “Starving” isn’t being without food for maybe a few hours then getting extremely hungry, to starve is a desperate churning feeling inside, that people from different countries, or sicknesses are forced to live with. Knowing this, started the incredible process of how my perspective of being conscious of my health and my background had started a truly phenomenal change in my appreciativeness for just a simple bite of food.
I had been so fatigued and anemic that I could no longer walk from the hospital bed to the bathroom without being wheeled by my sister in a wheelchair. I remember on a hot August day, I sat by the window, watching people easily walk around outside on the sidewalks of the building, as they had probably never questioned the astounding fortune they have to be able to just merely walk around. I had been so jealous and had forgotten what the feeling of being able to walk was like without that numb feeling in my legs, or getting tired just after about 6 steps. To this day, I am thankful for each step I take, although it may not seem a big deal to most people, you truly wouldn’t understand the privilege just to walk a few steps is, until you find yourself unable to do something you couldn’t even remember not being able to do.
After treatments and medicines hadn’t been efficient enough to cure my disease, my family and I had finally come to accept our last option: surgery. This involved the removal of my entire large intestine over the course of two surgeries. During these difficult times, I had realized it wasn’t only hard on me, but it was just as awful to see my family hurting over the situation. Over the course of these months, bonds with my family and friends had never been stronger. They had been with me every step of the way, and I wouldn't have been able to stay strong without their constant love and support. This brought to my attention how invaluable the comfort of family is. I never truly treasured how lucky I am to have an encouraging atmosphere of a close family, until we had been faced with such trouble. Seeing my mom and dad’s raw emotions full of sorrow had made me no longer get upset with them over little things, knowing that things could always be worse. This had been a revaluation and a wake up call to me, that the power of family or a support system is profoundly irreplaceable.
Getting a better understanding of what it really means to be a patient in the hospital had taught me so much. Seeing other young and older patients in the hospital during my time there, I learned how there are so many people in the world who unfortunately are suffering from a disease or condition that is completely out of their control. I had emotionally and mentally changed as a person after my year battling ulcerative colitis. I gained a whole new perspective on life, and my feeling and sensitivity level towards children who are sick has become more of a connection, rather than a story about someone else that only resonated in my mind for a few minutes. Each day I’m thankful for my family, health and wellness, since it’s something that I had seemed to take for granted, but experiencing what it’s like without these considered “easy” abilities, like walking or eating, had made me more fortunate for the simple things. Since my surgery, I have attended many ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease fundraisers and walks to raise money to develop medicines to find a cure. I have attended events where I have met other survivors, and people who are still fighting to cure their cases to support and encourage them to keep fighting, since I had been shown that support is extremely beneficial whether one knows it or not. Life is a path at which we all experience differently, although this path had surely been an unfavorable one, I am actually grateful, because without these new understandings, I wouldn’t be the same person that I am today.