I believe in the ability of people to overcome great obstacles.
I don’t mean that anyone can be a success at anything they try. What I’m saying is that when the odds are against someone, they can succeed. They can reach into that part of them, that piece of their humanity and pull themselves past whatever it is that they are facing. I know this. I’ve seen it done.
From the time I was a little kid, I looked up to my older brother Michael. I would spend my afternoons scrambling after him through the woods behind our yard, pulling my socks over my pants to avoid ticks just like he did. Because he watched Power Rangers, I watched Power Rangers. I even wore his old clothes; instead of wearing the lacy frocks bought for me by my mother, I walked around in knee-length ripped jean shorts and faded black tee-shirts hanging past my hips. He was my older brother and I admired everything he did, but I never knew how much he would deserve my adoration.
Mike was always a small kid; my whole family is short. But at some point he became more than just short. He was thin, so thin he looked malnourished. Soon, he began missing a lot school, frequently complaining of the same GI symptoms. My parents, both physicians, thought he was faking it. I remember standing in the shiny linoleum of the hospital hallway looking in on my brother getting his blood drawn. I remember my parents standing around him, my mom holding his hand. Then I remember finding my mom puffy eyed in my kitchen explaining to me exactly what Crohn’s Disease was.
Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the colon, causing, among other things, stomach pain, vomiting, and weight loss. There is no cure and treatments are limited to trying to control the disease. In Mike’s case, he was put on a large dose of steroids and an anti-inflammatory called Pentasa, with a couple of other drugs. Initially he got better. His hospital visits became much less frequent. But this period of remission was only short lived.
The blows seemed to come on a revolving basis. Boom. Mike was in the hospital with pancreatitis, causing such pain that he could barely move or eat. Boom. The steroids off of which Michael survived caused his bones to wear down, eventually causing him to break every bone in his back. Every blow not only debilitated the poor child, only thirteen years of age, but left my family staggering. At one point, his pain seemed almost endless and his chances bleak. All in all, Michael missed all of seventh and eight grades, as well as barely attending ninth. Besides his falling behind in math classes, at which he previously excelled, and other academic experience, he lost so much. He lost whole years of childhood, experience to gain friendships and learn who he was, while having fun and not worrying about a thing. I don’t understand how anyone could recover from all of this, but Mike did.
During his numerous sick days, Mike studied and fell in love with the computer. He learned everything he could about every type of computer and nurtured his interest into an incredible skill. In his remaining years of high school, he worked enough to graduate on time and spend his senior internship building computers for underprivileged college students. He now attends Drexel University, studying his passion, computer science.
Michael demonstrates an amazing will to survive and flourish. He shows the kind of resiliency that can only be because of some innate desire to live and make the most of what you have. But my brother’s case doesn’t just show this quality in himself. My parents have it; they never gave up fighting for my brother, helping him graduate and supporting him through years of heart-wrenching disappointments. His doctors have it; they successfully found a way to treat his disease, even after previous tries failed. Look around in your own life and you’ll see it too. I know this ability is present in everyone; I believe it.
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