I remember the first time I prayed—the scent of the chemicals and something like despair surrounding the poorly lit room around me. I remember the sound of the monitors making the dull heartbeat sound like a mournful song, rather than a statistic of life. I remember that I prayed over my nearly dying mother.
My small, pale hands were clasped eagerly over hers (so tightly). She smiled at me, but it was a sad kind of smile—a smile that was usually reserved for a bitter-sweet goodbye (I wasn’t ready, to say goodbye). I remember the nurse telling me I had to get down off of the bed (I didn’t). I remember my father looking away, hands clenched as he tried desperately not to cry (he failed). I remember my mother trying to hide her tears (she couldn’t).
Eventually, my innocent eyes, bogged down with tears that were too heavy for my small frame to carry any longer, began to shut, and my father picked me up, swooping in with strong arms that held the burden of a family, and he took me to the car. I was feigning sleep at that point, my mind working faster than ever to try and find a solution on how to save my mother. Perhaps I could hug her, I remember thinking. I could hug the sick right out of her, like a sponge. Or that I could kiss her repeatedly—my act of love waking her up from her sickened haze—a nightmarish version of Snow White. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night, my mind trying to think of any possible situation that would make it better. I couldn’t find one. Reflecting back on it now, I realize that her hospitalization, her dance with death, if you will, impacted who I am and who I want to be.
There is an idea that we can change our world, and the impact it has on us, how we allow it to effect us. My impactful moment came from my mother, so sick, so pale, so small in her bed. Now, as a girl nearing her seventeenth birthday, twelve years past the incident, her struggle, reflected on me, made me who I am today. The compassion in that moment, that I felt for her, for those in the wing of the hospital, for those around me, led me to the choice that I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to help someone in the very way my mother had been helped, so some other little four-year old girl, wouldn’t give up hope over herself or her ailing family. I realize now, I could have made a choice—I could have let my mother’s illness, something she still struggles with today, define me negatively. But that would never have helped me, or my mother, for that fact. She needed normalcy, and if I, her only child, had turned, I don’t think personally her recovery would have been as miraculous.
We are defined by our choices. They shape the ultimate path before us. Wallowing in sadness and despair only hurts those around us, and perhaps even our souls. Of course when I was four, I didn’t know how I would approach being a doctor, and I never could have dreamed that I would have settled on Pediatric Oncology, but I did know that I loved my Mother, and I loved helping those in similar situations, providing care for them. My mission is to help every child and parent to the best of my ability, just as my mother and my family had been helped. I decided, at the tender, light hearted age of four, that I would help those around me to my greatest capacity with kindness, empathy, and compassion.