The Mother of All Hope

Do you know where medicine is headed? I certainly don’t. This is a guest blog from a patient who is also applying to medical school. He asked me to review his application essay, and the teacher in me came out, and I said yes. What an inspiring shot in the arm for those of us in the field or thinking of joining it! Here is an excerpt from his essay:
Do you remember a day that changed your life? A day that would forever change who you are? I have a vivid memory of such a day. I remember the collection of National Geographic magazines that littered the waiting room. I remember the bounty of well-worn toys and puzzles all scattered about. I remember the sterile air and the intense pink outfits that the nurses wore. I recall the emotionless faces of parents watching their hairless children play like nothing had happened. And I remember joining my parents in a conference room after they had just received the worst news of their lives. The look on my mother’s face as I, her child with Ewing’s sarcoma, walked into the room was unforgettable. Thankfully, as an eleven year old, I was naïve to the treacherous road that lay ahead.
This story though is not about the rigors and pain, cancer and chemotherapy. It is about hope. If my experience with cancer taught me anything it was that no matter what challenge you face, hope lives and guides through the darkest of alleys and the steepest of mountains. I spent nine months in the cancer wing of Texas Children’s Hospital watching reruns of Rocket Man on the close-looped movie channel and vomiting to the smell of food carts in the hallway. But somehow, from somewhere, there was hope.
It was when I felt my worst that hope surfaced in the most unexpected way. Although more luxurious than regular hospital rooms, replete with PlayStation, guest bed, and flat screen TV, the ICU was a place that I was usually too sick to enjoy. One afternoon changed all that. That day, an ICU doctor whom I did not know stepped into my room to check on me. He suggested that we play a game of PlayStation baseball and we spent the next hour laughing as he let me beat him. For that one hour I had no pain.  All I remember was how much I appreciated that he took his valuable time to play with me. And, for the first time, I felt that everything would be fine. What’s funny is that it wasn’t because of some radical new treatment plan or positive test result that I felt hope but from a kind and simple gesture that the doctor offered me that day. The gift of hope, really the ultimate prescription, is something I cherish to this day. It is something that I hold dearly and will share many times over.
What role has hope played in my life? Well, despite failing the physical exam in school because of my cancer and failing to make the freshman football squad, I was convinced that I could perform like any other kid. I eventually earned my spot and went on to become a team captain and to receive All-District honors. And, from the moment I met my wife I wanted to start a family, but for my entire life I was deemed “sterile” from cancer therapy. However, I refused to believe this, did my research, sought out the care that I needed and now know that that I can have my own children.
Life has a funny way of teaching you things. Challenges become gifts and such gifts give us character. Through overcoming challenges, there grows a sense of purpose. I now want to be a doctor and it is hope, along with hard work, that fuels me. The hope that I can inspire others the way that I have been inspired. To instill hope where it doesn’t exist. To make hope as vital as oxygen to life.