I'll start by saying this is an extreme rough draft, but I had an urge to write about this experience because it honestly has been pretty life altering. I know this is very emotionally weepy and narrative and shitty to begin with and very cliche at the end, but is any of it worth keeping? If I keep this as my general framework for a topic, what do you think is worth keeping as my baseline to work from (because I know I need to cut the story way down)? Literally any advice is appreciated.
It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a sweltering hot mid-august day, and I was crying quietly in a Walgreens vitamin aisle. My mother consoled me over the phone. She told me everything would be fine, that she would be there with me. She was on her way home now. I nodded my head, knowing she couldn’t see me but not trusting my voice to remain steady. My lips were pressed tightly together, trying to quell the burning tears in my eyes. She told me to go home, and I must have made a noise that conveyed agreement because she hung up. I hadn’t cried until I’d called her, hadn’t felt the looming, terrifying possibility until I had said it out loud.
“The Doctor said the lump in my breast is concerning. She says I need to get an ultrasound before I leave.”
I was leaving in two days. My thoughts raced as I drove home. Will I have to cancel my flight? Will I have to cancel the whole trip? How much will this cost? Will I have to go through chemo? Will I have to delay graduation? Stop school entirely? I was supposed to leave for my five month study abroad program in two days. I was supposed to graduate this year, I was prepping to apply to law schools… Suddenly, all of the plans I’d had in place for the rest of my life felt uncertain.
“It’s probably nothing. You’re so young.”
I repeated these words like a mantra in my head, but it did little to quell the shaking of my hands as I dialed number after number for every diagnostic lab in the area begging for an emergency appointment. There was only minimal relief in getting one.
I didn’t sleep that night and it had nothing to do with the anxiety of going abroad for the first time.
As the first person in my family to go to college, as the child of a single mother, I had learned long ago to appreciate the opportunities I had been given, to see my education in particular as a source of hope and optimism for my future. I'd experienced foreclosure and moving three times in two years and how to handle going a week without seeing my mother because she was working nights, too, and through all of this I thought I knew what it meant to appreciate what you have, while you have it. This tiny flicker of a possibility had put everything before me (I hoped it was still before me) into an outstandingly new perspective. Ultimately I decided I would move forward with what I knew I wanted (studying abroad, graduation, law school) no matter what the doctor told me the next day, because I couldn’t imagine the alternative.
My mom was there with me, and she gripped my hand and I knew she was just as afraid as I was. I was so thankful she was there with me, and I wondered why I had never told her how thankful I was. After what felt like an eternity, the doctor returned. Good news, but something to watch. I’d have to come back in 6 months, keep a close eye on it.
“You’re so young,” he said.
I am so young, I thought. Too young. Too young for breast cancer and too young to be thinking about what I would do with my life if I had more time.
But life goes on. The very next day I was on a plane to the Netherlands. I found myself, a girl who never learned how to ride a bicycle in the bicycle capital of the Netherlands. I bought one anyway and taught myself. I went out and met so many new people and tried so many new things and whenever I felt afraid I reminded myself what it felt like walking into that ultrasound appointment, reminded myself that the possibility still lingered, that death lingers with all of us, always.
As of the writing of this, things remain ambiguous. Still abroad, I have yet to get a biopsy or a definitive answer. In the midst of studying and writing my thesis and sight-seeing and arranging to graduate the possibility lingers. It drives me, spurs me forward. It gives me a beautiful urgency. As gut wrenching as this experience has been (and continues to be), I am incredibly thankful for the perspective that it has given me on life and what I want to make of mine. I look forward with renewed enthusiasm to all of the things that lie ahead of me, academically and personally.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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