The first year of high school is one of the most exciting times of your life. You are getting ready for new beginnings and meeting friends you will keep along many journeys of your existence. You are discovering who you are, who you most definitely are not, and who you want to be. My high school experience started much different than other kids. The summer before my freshman year my mother was experiencing concerns with her left breast, she had found a lump. Her job provided annual mammograms to its employees and she went every year faithfully to have that test completed. So how is it possible that 6 months later she could feel a lump that went undetected? After yet another mammogram, she was told that they could not see anything. Finally, an ultrasound was ordered, a metal clip placed at the tumor site and a biopsy performed. Through it all, she constantly explained to my sister and I that she was going to be okay and we had absolutely nothing to worry about. At least I wish that were the case.
When the test results came back, they called my mother at work to tell her that at age 42, she was being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. This meant that the cancer is large and had spread to her surrounding tissues, including in her lymph nodes. This was a shock to everyone because she had always done exactly what was asked of her, getting her mammograms and doing self exams as recommended. Something that could kill her and take over her body was being blindsided by multiple doctors. My mother was told that this stage is known as being advanced and she would need to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
There is not true preparation for seeing someone go through this type of sickness. It completely and physically takes over the body from head to toe. Watching my mom go through such a hard experience changed my life forever. A woman loses her sense of self when they undergo a treatment this severe. It started with her hair falling out, then eyelashes, a week later her eyebrows, and finally it started to affect her brain. The doctor would call it “chemo brain”, meaning it is easy to forget things and be slower than you were before. This was difficult for my mom because she was an extremely well educated woman that would forget where she put something or would struggle to be able to think of a certain word. Although, my mother fought this cancer and did not let it become her. She would continue to make it to my volleyball games and tournaments without a second thought. She would go to church with my family every Sunday, no matter how hard it would be to wake up one morning. She was always there for me for school events that a daughter loves to do with her mother like prom dress shopping and college visits.
I tried my best to be strong for my mom. We would often sing to each other, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey”. I wanted to be her sunshine like she was mine my whole life. Nothing is harder than seeing someone you love in so much pain, the kind of pain that you could not take away no matter what you did. She was what every girl could ask for as a mother. She was never missing during my accomplishments, but instead, was the reason I succeeded at so much. My mother was strong. She did not once play the “poor pity me” card or let people be sad for her. She was a fighter. She had supporters all around her helping her with meals, making blankets, and trying to comfort her. My mother was so loved she had an army that cared for her along the way, she called it her “angel army.”
This experience showed me how important it is to love your family and what really matters in life. Our society likes to put the spotlight of importance on media, money and power, but that will never give you the joy a mother and family can provide in your life. A mother is irreplaceable, having the ability to go through hard times and have someone there waiting with open arms. My mother has inspired me and showed everyone that her sickness did not define her. It’s common to hear that a young girl looks up to her mother, but she is much more than just my hero, she is an inspiration to everyone she has touched throughout her life. She will hold a legacy until the end of time.
My family had to make a lot of changes while my Mom was ill. My family was lucky to have good insurance and some money in savings that covered her medical and hospital bills. Without insurance, I know that her care would not have been as good and she would not have been able to get the medications that she required.
This scholarship opportunity will help me to reach my goal of becoming an Orthodontist without relying so heavily on my family for financial support. Since my mother’s illness, my family has moved into a smaller home to reduce the burden of bills. Obtaining my future career goals will enable me to assist my family with future financial needs, but I know it will require a lot of hard work and perseverance.
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