I know this statement is too long, I just want to make sure I am headed in the right path.
Here it is:
“You’re not contagious, are you?” is a question I have grown all too familiar with. I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of four months old and to this day people still stare at me like I am some sort of pathogen that needs to be taken care of. One day, I remember going home to my parents and asking them why I had to do nebulizer treatments every night and they replied by telling me “It’s to keep you healthy for a long time”, I did not know what it meant at the time, but now, at 24 years old, I understand. As someone whose life expectancy is about half of the typical American, Cystic Fibrosis has made me consider mortality and focus on really making every day count.
Death has always been something I’ve had to think about because of the fact that I knew any negligence or even a simple accident such as catching a cold could have serious consequences for me, the most severe being death. It made me realize, at a young age, that I do not want to be another statistic, I don’t want my life to be wasted, I want people to remember me for my achievements as someone who has overcome this obstacle.
The most difficult part of Cystic Fibrosis is that I consider it a time consuming disease, it involves air clearance treatments about three times a day, it involves taking medicines and vitamins daily, sometimes up to three times a day, at specific times during the day; it is both physically and mentally exhausting at times. Throughout most of my adolescent life, the responsibility of taking care of my disease was not in my hands but in the hands of my parents. They laid out my medicines for me, set up my therapy machines, made home cooked meals for me, etc. The responsibility of taking care of myself was never really mine and the consequences of that were not apparent to me until I moved out on my own. I could not imagine how difficult accomplishing my goals would be or how bad my disease would get due to the fact that I had no control over my own care.
As I entered university, attending and keeping up with classes became more difficult because I was barely learning how to manage/balance my disease and my schoolwork on my own. My first two years were the most difficult. I began to miss treatments and medications either because I was never home or because I had to worry about other aspects of my life such as schoolwork that almost always made me forget that I even had Cystic Fibrosis and that I had treatments to do. These years were a roller coaster ride with my health declining and inclining constantly. My studies became extremely difficult to keep up with as I would often miss class or not fully pay attention in class due to my illness. I remember hearing those old childhood reminders “hopefully you can grow old and accomplish your goal” over and over in my head. “Hopefully”, that word alone is a reminder to me that I might not always be around unless I take better care of myself. I told myself that I would not let my disease be the reason that I fail at accomplishing my goals. I decided that drastic changes needed to be made in my current lifestyle to allow me to return to a life of healthy living that I once enjoyed when living with my parents. The plan was simple; better time management to allow me to account for both schoolwork and my daily treatments and medication; it was a simple and yet obvious plan, but one that was very difficult for me during my first years at UCSD.
My plan consisted of waking up an hour earlier than usual every morning in order to be able to do my treatments and medications on time before class; though this task seems relatively simple, it was sometimes difficult due to my busy school schedule and extracurricular activities that kept me up late night, thereby making my early mornings sacred. Nevertheless, I began to learn how to manage my time better. No more staying up late nights studying away, I began to manage my time to where there was no need to stay up late as I studied sooner rather than later. No more going out late with friends and sacrificing my health for short leisure time, and definitely no more forgetting medications. I began to carry pill containers with all my daily medications and began to set daily alarms to help remind me when I had to take them. My new routine also allowed me to set time aside to begin exercising which is crucial to healthy lung development and healthy living in general. As someone with Cystic Fibrosis, it is important for me to build muscle rather than fat to help my lungs develop better; I began to go to the gym and life weights, work on my cardio, and teach myself to swim. My new routine allowed me to stay healthy, for the most part, during my remaining two years at UCSD and it allowed me to better concentrate on school and improve my work habits. I no longer missed extended periods of time from class due to illness and I was able to concentrate and participate in class. I finally understood the correlation between staying healthy and accomplishing my goals. As a result, these ordeals have given me something I always needed: self-confidence. I know I can accomplish anything I put my mind to because I know that I can manage my disease and schoolwork.
Now a graduate of the University of California, San Diego with a major in Political Science, I know that nothing is out of my reach; I learned to persevere and move forward thanks to the obstacles in my path, not in spite of them. My disease has shaped who I am as an individual; it has made me a hard-worker who has a purpose in life, a person who no matter what circumstances lie in front of me, will always fight to overcome them. This is ultimately at the core of why I want to become a lawyer. I’ve had to overcome so much just to come to this point. What many people need is a role model, an example that’s proves their dreams are possible. I want to become that person. I hope that through my success in achieving my goal, I can serve as an inspiration to other children and adults with “disadvantages” to never give up on their dreams. In my eyes, by completing my goal of becoming a lawyer, I’ll complete a journey that started at birth, and hit the only homerun that matters.
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