This is the letter that Sara wishes a friend had written to her as she struggled with cancer and fibromyalgia. She wants this to be her gift to you, dear patient.
You are an author of a powerful story. I know you may not see it now. From your slow, cemented position, I know the only thing you can think of right now is what you are not. Our lives harbor an abundance of growth & branches, an intricate tree that composes our existence. You are a single thread in this beautiful network of life, equally as valuable & gifted as every single thread that creates & spans through the world today. I wish that you can see what courage you have in taking this ordeal head on, continuing that smile on your face and in your heart.
I personally don’t know many gals your age who’d be downright excited about being bald. I yearn that your infatuation with life can be something we could all feel. Still, know that it is futile to compare yourself to others; this raggedy, defective body you have been given was born to help the Earth and it’s inhabitants reach for a more convalescent tomorrow.
You are enough.
Your hard work will pay off as much as your willingness to survive. I see that instead of growing with your peers, you grow too weak to walk, desperately in need of blood as the medicine consumes you; paralyzes you through excruciating spasms of pain & plagues you with debilitating nausea. Your throat is so burnt sometimes we can barely hold conversation, but you still tell me that missing your beloved school hurts even more than your weakened skeleton. As I witness you lying half-dead in bed listening for stories on Syria, America’s gun violence epidemic and new environmental policies on NPR; solemnly watching the clock go from 8:30-3:30, dreaming about the students coming in and out the brilliant hallways, you have to remember to be patient as we are able to share our gifts & blessings during the right times.
You will be able to make a difference.
Within the flowing circles of our own lives, we each have a profound impact, one that starts and ripples in the of littlest ways. Recognize that you are worthy of an education, even if you think no one will want you because you have been so ill these past few years. Relive the seconds that have strung & reverberated your being. What have you lived for? Commemorate the moments when you notice the dearest, most genuine of smiles & laughter upon the most serious person. The uttermost silence walking through a breathtaking forest, inhaling the clean, crisp air. When you’d scale the highest of trees, feeling invincible. The first time you saw an orchestra play; the simultaneous movement of the bows on rich, maple bodies, the fixed, intense look on musician’s faces. Performing melodies until your eyes drooped and your fingers delayed in protest. Joyfully & secretly observing the purest forms of kindness, compassion, and generosity people are capable of. Thanking God for the wonders and turmoils in your life and seeing Him speak to you through distinct and innumerable forms everyday.
You want to embrace the entire world, but when sorrow takes a hold when you cannot even comprehend the marks you are looking at on the pages of your favorite book, that is not you.
The effects of chemotherapy and cancer do not define who you are and what your potential may be. It is OKAY if you can’t do things sometimes when your body won’t permit you. I know you are doing the best you can as a student and person; continue doing what you can. Never cease to grow and flourish as the wonderful flower you are and are meant to become.
Your body & life will eventually catch up to the immense passion and light you hold inside.
Live in peace, child.
Sara underwent conventional therapy for an embryonal subtype of rhabdomyosarcoma behind her left eye. She wants to say that even though her life is continuously influenced by turbulent health, she wants to pour love and blessings that she has received back into the very essence of thought and action towards a more peaceful and healthful world through higher education. Sara won an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Andre Sobel Award.
A Message from Sara:
I’ve been blessed to experience a constant zeal and infatuation for life. Through finding the peace, love, and light of God in my early teen years through my spiritual quest and life experiences, I was forever changed in the physical and psychological barriers and awareness we put on ourselves, our neighbors, and our world.
Near the end of my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, or muscle cancer, rapidly growing behind my left eye. Instead of growing with my peers and physically attending my Junior year, I grew too weak to walk, desperately in need of blood as the medicine consumed me; paralyzed me through excruciating spasms of pain & debilitating nausea. I was even unable to face apple juice, a reminder of the amber, syrup-like poison that awaited me in two days. I felt like a Twilight pre-vampire since my veins hurt unceasingly and I actually craved blood… transfusions.
I could take the physical agony and a hellish regimen, but school? College? Missing my beloved school hurt even more than my weakened skeleton. I reminisced my involvement in the roots of what became a renowned student-led documentary film on preventing violence, or getting hired doing conservation work in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service a week prior to my illness. Missing quality time with my peers, marching against shootings, meeting extraordinary youth all over the country…that devastated me.
I found solace in music. Through the bleakest of times, melodies brought my spirit through the clouds. Cancer treatments could disable my body and mind, but I wasn’t going to let that go. Too weak to hold my cello bow, and having my guitar’s weight buckling under me, I bought a ukulele and soon enough I was serenading others at the hospital. Like the generous gift of my piano from the Make-A-Wish foundation, music breathed the solace of light when I was immersed in darkness. If I could only bequeath a portion of the blessings, knowledge, and felicity that music and the lives that touched me during my cancer to the world, I know people’s lives can change, even if it is just for a moment.
I hope to refine and grow as a student and individual every single day. I also wish to empower others to realize themselves, discover truth, and what we are a part of as human beings. Cancer reinforced who I was before, while blessing me with the perspective of tangible suffering; experiencing the very life that so many people sadly and wretchedly endure. In suffering, we can blessedly develop a wonderful perspective of warmth and benevolence, blossoming light in those who are currently enduring the darkness of cancer or hardship. My greatest wish is to share my gifts, live as a citizen of not only a country, but of the world, and endow the awe-inspiring attitudes I’ve experienced through a life of peace and service. At now 19 years of age, I have still never felt upset for the anguish of cancer or the physical pain I still experience to this day, but more eager to sacrifice myself to learn, unconditionally love, and share these perspectives and compassion if I made it through.