A November day three years ago, at the age of twelve, my life took a turn for the worse. I awoke in the middle of the night, my chest tight and enflamed. My mother bundled me into the car with a change of clothes and headed for Children’s Hospital, driving speedily through Vancouver’s silent streets. After five long hours, a doctor appeared at my hospital bed. He explained that my Lupus (an autoimmune disease) was flaring and, pausing a moment, that I needed to take the steroid prednisone. Ever since receiving my diagnosis, I had feared this drug and its lengthy list of side effects. As he handed the prescription to my mother, I cowered behind a defiant stare.
Even as the empty bottles of prednisone multiplied in the pill cabinet, my health did not improve. More protein appeared in my urine – indicating kidney problems- and my energy levels dropped. The doctors finally sent me to the hospital for a kidney biopsy.
I arrived on a Friday morning. The nurse handed me a blue hospital gown. As I lay on a wheelie bed, an IV dripped sedative into my veins. Several hours later, I groggily awoke in a small, antiseptic-scented hospital room with drapes for walls. My back was bandaged and slightly sore where the doctors had removed a piece of my kidney with a needle. I ate the tasteless hospital food and watched the movies the nurse wheeled in on a cart. The day felt long, stretched by worry.
The results were phoned in a few days later and my medications were quadrupled. Soon, with the effects of the increased medication, my face became puffy, my growth charts plateaued, and I developed insomnia. In the weeks that followed the phone call, I fell into despair. I ripped up paper. I threw my school supplies across the floor. I yelled at my family that I hated them. I sobbed in my bed under the covers. I sat silent at my desk at school.
Yet, through all of this, my family did not give up on me. My little sister wrapped her arms around me when I cried and told me she loved me. When I chucked things across the room, my mother picked them up and put them away. My twin sister walked with me at lunchtime and sat with me through every class. It was this unconditional love that gave me the strength to carry on and recover. I believe in the power of family support.
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