A little over seven years ago, as a 14-year-old freshman in high school, my world was altered by a diagnosis that no teenager would ever expect to get. They said cancer and I was shocked. It was Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage 3, and the beginning of a journey that, although I didn’t ask for, I would also never trade for anything in the entire world.
The year following my diagnosis was everything that you would expect a pediatric cancer kid’s year to look like. I got way too familiar with needles and my medical vocabulary grew exponentially. I had to say goodbye to my long blond hair and get used to a bald me that was swollen from steroids. My treatment regimen consisted of eight months of chemotherapy and five weeks of daily radiation. Although it wasn’t an experience that I would ever wish on anyone, the lessons I learned about the power of my Heavenly Father being made perfect in my weakness was something that I am forever grateful for.
You see, as a 14-year-old kid, the Lord gave me insight to something that not everyone has the opportunity to hold on to. I was given concrete examples of his sovereign work in my life daily, and to this day, I am still seeing results of that work come to fruition even in the most mundane of circumstances.
It was about two or so months into my chemotherapy, when I was in the infusion clinic at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, that several volunteers from Make-A-Wish® Middle Tennessee came to talk to me. They presented the opportunity to make any wish that I could dream of, and they promised to do their best to see that it came true. Talk about pressure! Anything that I could imagine and they would try to make it happen. I took a pretty long time to mull over my options and I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted to attend the 2012 Summer Games in London, England.
Being that it was only 2009 at the time, they made sure I understood the risks of waiting for those four years, but I knew that I didn’t want to use the opportunity on anything else. I like to think that it was sort of my way of proving to people that I wasn’t going to stop hoping for tomorrow and making plans for the future. So I made my decision, they gathered some information and my wish became official.
I finished up my treatment in October 2009 and began the process of trying to assimilate back into a normal teenage life. Whenever anyone asks me what the hardest part of battling cancer was, this is most often my answer. I had just finished battling a life-threatening disease and most of my peers’ biggest priorities often seemed trivial. I am not trying to say that anything that I went through was harder or more important, but it was just totally different, so the Lord had to journey with me through a period of feeling somewhat isolated. After some time walking through the halls of my high school again, the routine became familiar; my classmates got used to my short pixie hair cut; and I started to feel like a teenager again.
December of my senior year, I was in the middle of preparing for the start of my college career at Auburn University, and I had almost forgotten about the wish that I had made years before, when we were contacted and told that Make-A-Wish was going to send me to London for the 2012 Summer Games. It took me a long time to accept that they where going to send me because I had been cancer-free for two years, and the wish of survival granted was more than I could have ever asked for. To be honest, I almost didn’t accept the offer because I felt a little guilty for using resources that could grant wishes for kids that might not have the opportunities for a future like I was given. Make-A-Wish convinced me that although I was on the winning side of the battle I still had to go through the same things that every other wish kid does. And just like that, my entire family, including both of my brothers and parents, was headed to London for one of the most amazing trips that I have ever been on.
A limo showed up the morning of our departure and took us to the airport. After a long flight, an amazing crew greeted us in London and treated us to whatever we needed. Our time across the pond was filled with watching events such as swimming and gymnastics, and at one point we were in the same room as the Queen! We were taken to a training site and met Nastia Liukin and other athletes. In addition to all of that, we were even invited to a dinner at Kensington Palace, the home of Prince William and Princess Kate.
The memories we made on that trip are some I will never forget, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity that Make-A-Wish gave my family. I can never say enough thanks to the Make-A-Wish organization for not giving up on a freshman girl’s dream and seeing that it came true just before I embarked on my journey to college.
Believe it or not, my life went on after that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A little bit after we came home from our adventures, I set off for Auburn to pursue a degree in nursing. A big portion of what helped me decide to pursue a nursing career was battling cancer. I can only hope that I can become what my nurses were for me, for someone else in the coming years.
College brought many occasions for growth; new friends that will last a lifetime and a chance to meet the man that I am humbled to marry next February. It is incredible to look back on my years and see how the Lord has so intricately used the experiences I faced in high school to prepare me for how He used me in college to shine a light on His goodness. Through lots of late nights of studying I made it through my years in nursing school. I just graduated in May of this year. Right now I am preparing for the NCLEX exam so I can receive my license. Soon I will starting working in the Nurse Residency Program at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, TN.
What a privilege it has been for me to re-live the blessings of the past years as I write about them here. Humbly, I want to thank every person that had a hand in helping me discover the gifts of sanctifying hardships and the prize of seeking the beautiful moments that are eternal. I pray as I begin a career as a nurse that I can shine some light on how there is something to be thankful for even in pain. I will do my best to walk alongside my patients while providing encouragement and love, just like the ones who cared for me all those years ago. I look forward to a life full of more learning and growing, and I can’t wait to see the doors that are opened. More of life’s struggles are also certainly to come but with the support of my soon to be husband, my ever faithful family, and my sovereign Lord, I will continue to stand on the Solid Rock that is my Savior, ready to tackle whatever the future has in store.