This I Believe

Ashley - Sonoma, California
Entered on December 27, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

This I Believe: Overcoming Adversity

By Ashley Olazar

During the first sixteen years of my life I was not being an active participant. I was watching it go by, indifferent to the events and milestones that should have been appreciated and valued. I took normalcy for granted and was not thankful for the easy road I was traveling. I never studied and managed to maintain A’s and B’s through the tenth grade. I was seldom ill and had a pleasant life at home. These gifts and achievements meant nothing to me; they were simply an expectation.

The summer before eleventh grade I became ill during my vacation in New Mexico. When I returned home, my symptoms continued to progress and became worse. I had no idea what was wrong with me, and all I could think about was the pain. During these grueling and exhausting months, which were filled with pain and tears, I was trying to attend school with a full schedule of eight classes in order to prepare myself for college. I ended up missing more days of school than I attended. After two and a half months of perplexed doctors and unanswered questions I finally had a diagnosis. They told me that I have Ulcerative Colitis, which is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It is an auto-immune disorder, and is painful

as well as responsible for undesirable symptoms.

So far, I have had this disease for a year and it has changed my life considerably. For twelve months I have been on steroids and began IV drug treatment similar to chemotherapy during this past summer. I received my first C during my junior year, three in fact. These grades did not show my true abilities; I missed so much school I was unable to learn the material. In March, I had to drop out of normal classes at school and finish my junior year through a Home Hospital program. I reduced my schedule from eight classes first semester to three classes second semester.

Now I am a senior, and back in school. I am taking seven classes, three AP and one honors course. I have aspirations to attend Stanford or Yale University next fall. My plan is to become a doctor with a specialty in Oncology. Despite my continuing fight against my disease, as I try to reach a state of remission, I have a greater appreciation for the accomplishments and occurrences of everyday life. I can allow myself to stop and smell the roses, as I smile at the importance of it all. The obstacles I have faced cause me to be determined to succeed. By returning to school and taking on a full academic course load, it is as if I am retaliating against my disease and refusing to submit to failure or inability. I push myself harder and can appreciate the small victories I achieve. Through the struggle of keeping myself in school, I have found my inner strength. I feel like I can take on the world now if I choose to. I believe that obstacles are a necessity in order for the human spirit to grow. If I had not been diagnosed with my disease, I might still be wandering aimlessly without a goal or belief toward my future success.