I’m not going to lie, this school year has been hard and I’m not sorry to see the end of it. Not only has it been academically challenging, but very emotionally challenging as well. But I have learned more about myself because of everything I’ve been through. One very important lesson I’ve learned is how to trust. For the first time in four years since I was diagnosed with my illness do I feel relatively comfortable talking about it. I used to hate talking about it, and usually tried to avoid the questions when people asked what I was sick with, or why I was gone such a long time. Looking back, I don’t know why I hated talking about my illness so much. Maybe it was because I was in denial, maybe I was ashamed, or maybe I thought that if I pretended that nothing was wrong and I was perfectly fine, then it would come true. But that’s not what actually happened. Over a period of four years my symptoms worsened. Out of fear, I finally broke my silence and told someone outside my family what was happening to me. I’m glad I did. I had not only the support of my family, but also of my friends. I was no longer ashamed of my illness, and my friends gave me the morale boost that I so desperately needed. This past year I’ve realized just how valuable my friends and family are. All their support and love has helped me and given me hope.
Surprisingly, I also have a renewed faith in God. Before, I probably had a little more faith than the average fifteen year-old American. I would go to church every Sunday, but usually found Mass boring, and never really got anything out of going. I think it really is true that even the most skeptical person will turn to God in a crisis. That’s what happened to me. I turned to God, at first angry and bitterly questioning why He was doing this to me. Then I begged that He would miraculously heal me. After asking for a miracle, doubt crept into my mind. What had I, in my fifteen years on this earth, done to deserve a miracle? I certainly wasn’t a living saint, like Mother Theresa. I realized that there were plenty of people in the world who suffered a hundred times more than I did. There was this good friend of my mother’s who prayed for me until the day he died. He had pancreatic cancer, and left behind a wife and six kids. If there was anyone who deserved a miracle, he did. I asked God, “Why didn’t You save him? He always looked to You for help.” Then I found out that when he was diagnose with cancer the doctors gave him three months to live. He lived for three years. Maybe his prayers hadn’t saved his life, but they gave him the strength to live beyond everyone’s expectations, probably even his own. Regardless, I came to the conclusion that I had done nothing in my life worth remembering, let alone worthy of a miracle. Despite this thought, I continued to pray for strength to get through everything that was happening.
I think God heard my prayers, because now I feel better, both physically and mentally, than I have in years. Maybe I finally got the miracle that I thought I didn’t deserve. I’m not sure, because a chronic illness is just what it says it is. Its forever. I’m not sure if this good feeling will last, but I’m going to make the most of it. Its kind of funny, I cried while writing this essay, and actually had to stop several times before I could finish. I don’t know why I was crying. I think it was out of relief. A relief that comes from knowing that its okay to cry, and that I have friends and family who love me. This ordeal has also been a learning experience. I’ve learned that you can’t be a one man army, you have to rely on others for help. I remember a quote that I found in one of my grandma’s books, “Is suffering causing you to lose your religion or use your religion?” I think I am a religious person now more than I ever was. I actually get something out of church because I have so much to be thankful for. My overall outlook on life has improved, because now I see the true value of family and friends, and the power of faith. So I guess in a weird way my suffering has been a good thing, because it forced me to improve myself in ways that I never would have done by myself, and see how valuable things were that I had originally taken for granted.
This last year has been hard, and even though I want to cry every time I think of everything that has happened, I really am happy. I almost didn’t write this essay because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share with everyone something so personal. But I’m glad I did, because I want to share all the lessons I have learned and will never forget. Suffering can be a blessing in disguise, this I believe.
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