All the organs under my sternum quiver as I struggle to swallow my apprehension. This hallway is long and low, with carpet that is hardly thicker than linoleum. “You can change in there,” the nurse says cheerily, pointing to a room the size of a closet. I heave open the door. Even though a tag claims it is a size small, the speckled mass of fabric drowns me. I emerge from the room awkwardly, trying to keep the gown from untying and exposing my bare back.
The nurse whisks into another room, calling for me to follow. I notice a strip of black and yellow tape stuck to the floor, as if to remind me that this is my last chance to escape. Slowly, I step over it, and catch my first glimpse of the machine. It is grey and shiny, and looks as if it wants to eat me. I feel terribly alone.
“Seizures,” the first doctor had said, sending my mouth into an involuntary frown. She explained that there are thousands of different kinds, and mine could probably be controlled with medication. Somehow, that wasn’t comforting. With no inkling of the torment I would suffer for the next few weeks, she nonchalantly recommended me to a specialist. He was the one who suspected a brain tumor, and prescribed this MRI.
“When can we have the results?” my mother asks steadily. I am tense to the core standing beside her. After two hours of absolute stillness in a tube, I feel vulnerable and weak. The nurse ushers us away from the computer screens, where I can just see the magnetic images of my brain beginning to appear.
After that first diagnosis, my future seemed tainted. Encouraging talks with my parents, which were meant to diminish my fears, usually ended in tears. However, I found hope in the fact that there was an MRI scheduled after mine, and thus, another person in need of one. I was not alone. I gleaned strength from the sight of other teenagers in the waiting room with their parents. I was not alone. My trips in and out of the hospital, my walks past people in wheelchairs, with canes, and in casts, served to instill in me a stronger sense of compassion than I had ever felt before. Students with disabilities no longer seem so different. Simply by grappling with the potential of a life with seizures, my eyes were opened to the very real people behind such disabilities. I have felt the same frustration and the same despair that they do. If nothing else, those three months taught me that I believe that compassion comforts.
After all, we are not alone.