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Narration Essay – An event that changed your life

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I was sixteen years old when we found out that my mother had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am an only child and to hear this about my best friend, my mom, was devastating. Plus, to look at her she looked so normal and healthy, it was hard to imagine that she could have a disease that would eventually take her life. My mom lived for almost seventeen years with the disease, through all her treatments she taught me how to find inner strength and that life was precious to enjoy it.

As a junior in high school, my mom went in for some exploratory surgery because of a small knot on her leg when the doctors found cancer. I remember going to get a drink in the cafeteria and coming back with the doctor and my dad talking inside a closed room with a small window. Through the window, I could tell by the look on my dad’s face that it was not the outcome we had expected. Later in recovery, the doctor told my mom what he had found and they would meet in his office later in the week to discuss the treatment possibilities. I was with her when she was told of the cancer and the one thing I remember most is that she kept a smile on her face and said “I can fight this”.

Fighting is exactly what she did, she continued to work until retirement and for the most part tried to keep life as normal as possible for me and my dad. Sometimes, it was very strange to think of her being sick, because she knew how to hide it so well. Every now and then, I could get a peak of her being tired or just not being able to keep up the pace she normally did. She started her treatments and eventually went into remission which lasted for about five years. During the remission times, she enjoyed life as much as possible. She went the places she always wanted to go and taught me to take the time and just notice the small things around you that can be taken for granted. She noticed even the simple things that I had seemed to forget, such as smelling the honeysuckles in the backyard.

After several years in remission, the cancer returned several more times and each time it returned it was stronger and worse than the time before. During this time, she continued life as normal as possible with working and enjoying her grandchildren. There were days that she would go take a treatment in the morning and come home to do all her chores and cook dinner. I ask her how she did this and she said “staying busy keeps me alive”. I learned from my mom that I can accomplish anything by finding strength for within. At times during the day, when I am tired and do not want to take the extra time to do something for my family. I think of my mom and even in her sickest times she would always pick herself up and do what needed to be done. So, I decided if she can do it in those conditions then surely I can do it since I am healthy.

The last time the cancer returned there were no other options of treatment other than a stem cell transplant. In hoping to extend her life, she had the transplant knowing that it was at most a fifty percent chance of survival. My mom had two sisters that were perfect matches for the transplant. One sister was fifteen years older and the other sister was 5 years younger, the younger sister was the better choice of transplant donor. However, a week before the transplant my mom’s younger sister decided she did not want to be the donor. This was devastating news because my mom chances were so much greater from the younger sister. I often wonder how my mom found it in heart to forgive her sister for not wanting to help her extend her life but she did. My mom was thankful that she still had one sister who could donate and some chance at life was better than none at all.

After the initial 90 days after the transplant, she was feeling better and looked great. The doctors had said the first 90 days were the most important in recovery. Our family was so excited at how well she was doing and so was she. She could not go out in public but found other ways to get outside and enjoy the simple things in life once again. Sometimes, it was just sitting at the park watching the birds or beside the pool relaxing. During this time, we shared many memories and special moments together that I will remember for the rest of my life.

All of the sudden she started getting sick, it was so fast, she started rejecting her stem cells and had developed graft vs. host disease. This disease is the biggest complication for transplant patients. She was placed in the isolation area in the hospital where she stayed for ten months straight. Even though her life consisted at this time of a single hospital floor, she continued to keep her spirits up. In fact, she had made more friends on that one single floor and shared her story with more families probably than anywhere the entire time of her illness. Her being happy for each day she was able to be on earth never stopped and always wanted to know how everyone else was doing other than herself. The doctors continued all different types of treatment to cure the graft vs. host and several times they thought they had when it would just return again. During these months, it was very rare to every see her spirits get down because she always had that ounce of hope left. She would talk about when she got out of the hospital which vacation we would take and who she needed to go visit.

As time passed, I could tell that her fighting power was leaving her spirit and she passed away. She had seventeen years of treatments, doctors and hospitals I realized at this point that she was in a better place without any further suffering. I was sad to have lost my mother and best friend. However, my life was changed forever seeing how one woman could endure so much and still find the time to enjoy life. Also, she taught me that you can find inner strength even in the worse situations that you do not even know you have. She has influenced me to remember the happy times we shared and make those happy memories with my own family. One of the biggest lessons that I learned, is that life is short and it is only what we make of it ourselves. I have forever changed my way of thinking and realize that I am responsible for my own destiny. I have two daughters that I hope to pass on some of the traits my mom instilled in me.

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