“Stage IV metastatic malignant melanoma,” my mom said. I looked at her and dad across the dim kitchen, feeling a mixture of sadness, disbelief, and confusion. I knew it was bad, “Stage IV” anything is bad. The name of the cancer was unfamiliar and it sounded ominous. It was a brisk February evening in 2011 when I received the news that would change me forever: my dad only had eighteen months to live.
My first instinct was to begin researching the disease. I learned that his prognosis was bad, but this realization was not going to dictate my reaction. Over the next several months, during the initial rounds of immunotherapy, he seemed normal if a bit tired. So it was not too difficult for me to press on. But a single day in November 2011 became a turning point, an early indicator of the inevitable test of strength that was to come. I was in my apartment at school, when the phone rang. I could hear fear in my mom’s voice. “XX, your dad is on his way to XX Medical Center. He can’t talk or move. Come now.” In that moment I dropped everything and started driving; I had no other choice. I contemplated the worst and yearned for the best. However I had to remain strong, for my dad and for my family. I had to step up, stay resilient, and protect my mom and my three younger brothers during this extremely difficult time.
My father had a blood clot on his brain caused by several tumors. The doctors performed emergency surgery, removing the tumors as well as brain tissue. They saved his life, but gave no promises. It was several weeks before he started to speak short sentences, but he was never the same person again. With each of my brothers in school, it was hard for my mom to transport dad to rehab, chemo, radiation, and his other treatments, often many miles away. So after classes, I made the four-hour drive from school and back to stay with them several times a week. It was not easy maintaining my “A” average and my other school activities while simultaneously keeping the family together, but I did it because I had no other choice.
The last few months were hard. Waking up in the middle of the night to help my mom lift my father off the floor because tumors on his spine had taken control of his legs was tough. Waiting for the paramedics to arrive while I steadied my dad during his third seizure was not easy. Negotiating the labyrinth of Medicare, Social Security, and insurance rules and regulations was hard, especially because it was for my own father. But I remained resilient throughout. During this time, I performed lead roles in my college and home town theater groups, was involved in community service, graduated cum laude, and passed each part of the CPA exam on the first try.
Inevitably, my dad’s disease progressed until he was forced to enter hospice care on July 1, 2012. He lost his battle ten days later. When it was time to lay my father to rest, I reflected on the experience, and I realized what a profound parting gift he had given me. I gained the fortitude to press on despite hardships, and the courage to face the unfaceable. He taught me that the human spirit is capable of remarkable accomplishments in spite of incredible difficulty. I learned there was no obstacle or hardship that I could not endure with a smile on my face and determination in my soul.
The refusal to allow obstacles or tragedy to define one’s life is a unifying trait of many remarkable individuals. Succeeding in the face of such events proves one’s strength. Franklin Roosevelt was crippled with polio, yet served nearly four terms as president. Rosa Parks faced the threat of jail, violence, or worse and refused to compromise. Pope John Paul II lost his father at the age of 22. Tragedy can shape an individual into something irrepressible. When the storm finally comes, it is your reaction that defines your character. I now know this to be true. The experience of suddenly losing my father was something I never expected. But the spirit of perseverance in the face of extreme adversity will remain with me forever. My dad taught me in life, and in death, to never give up.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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I have incorporated comments I received both in my earlier post, as well as through PM. Please take a second to read and offer your honest comments on my PS. I really appreciate all of the help.
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