My teenage daughter was booked to go on an educational exploration of South America, including some volunteer projects just months before my diagnosis. I encouraged her to go, not to feel worried or held back by my cancer and to grow as a
person on this trip. She was to go to Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica, learning with teachers and volunteering in a Guatemalan Hospital and health center as well as organic planting projects. There was structure and safety but no luxury for the teenagers. They were required to write project diaries while they studied. One day, she was asked to read the particular journal entry to the rest of the group. She shared it with me and said that her teacher cried as she expressed the heartfelt answer to the day’s question. It goes like this …. Unaltered…
DAY 1: Cay Caulker, Belize
What event has shaped your life?
An event that has shaped my life was my mom getting diagnosed with breast cancer. I have always been really close with my mom all my life and it was one casual school night, after some amount of days preceding an amazing family trip, that I heard the life changing news. At first I cried, I cried for the thought of losing my mom and never receiving her bottomless love and guidance ever again. It was in the weeks following though that I noticed a change in hers and my attitude. I started appreciating every talk, every moment I got to spend with her everyday. She had to stay home from work of course because of all the chemotherapy, but this meant for the first time she had been home when I came home from school. She had more time to just talk to me and help me with anything I needed that when she was working, did not have time to do. From this I believe it brought out the best in me, as I was inspired to study harder, to play harder for my school teams and just find positive in every situation I faced.
In the end my marks and hard work paid off because I had never been so determined to accomplish something before having a mother with a life-threatening disease. I guess you could say it was the threat of losing her that brought out the determination in me, but I really think it was her remarkable and inspiring positive attitude through the long journey to better health she faced, that caused my sudden urge for accomplishment. She shaped my life and as I think about her I forget about her illness because it is her positive energy that touched every person around her and caused him or her to live his or her lives to the fullest as well. Life is a precious thing and it is not until it is threatened do we thank ourselves for what we have lived and understand its price. Down to complaining about going to tennis practice or fussing with my hair, I now can easily remind myself of the things my mom can do, do not include those. I quickly thank ‘him’ for what he has given me and clear out the negative atmosphere out of the room. I am not a religious person but I do thank ‘him’ for what I have and count the stars I still have with my mom, my family and with my positive life.
If you were to change anything about yourself, what would it be?
I was not an extremely determined person before my mom’s cancer diagnosis, but I have developed a stronger initiative to fulfill more of my life goals and to appreciate every experience I go through. Finding positive in a difficult situation is a skill, and I believe I have developed this skill further by being inspired by my mom’s amazing initiative and outlook on life. I hope to fulfill that goal in hope to return some of the positive energy my mom has been feeding me. Before I had been more scared to face life with such a courageous and ambitious attitude, but I am realizing through this experience how much more there is to enjoy in life when you do use this attitude. This is what I want and am attempting to change about myself, to make myself a better person for my benefits and the people around me.
Once you can understand how to find the ambition in yourself to live your life full, it becomes addicting to keep striving for higher and larger goals for yourself. This is what I want to change about myself, to become a person, like my mother, who spends every waking minute to find the most positive things in life and spend her time doing the things she loves most. Having an attitude like this makes my cottage more beautiful, my dog more loving, my teachers more exciting and my life more successful. I hope in the future that one day I can look back with my mom free of cancer and see a girl that changed her life by finding the strength for her mom and the ambition to live her life full.
By Olivia age 16
(She wants to be a Doctor too, someday…..)
Now in Biomedical Science, she’s off across the Pacific to build schools in May.