“Having been the recipient of tremendous compassion and being touched by numerous incredible foundations for cancer, I find great joy in my ability to serve and assist those suffering with a terminal illness.”
It was my first Boy Scout Camp, and I was eager to try “the blob.” Secondary to knee pain, rather than jumping on the blob, I elected to lay and prepare for launch. The second I began my flight, I knew I had made a mistake. There was a second of darkness before the waves of searing pain from my spine set in. As I hit the water, I was truly grateful for my lifejacket, for without it I would’ve drowned. As feeling and mobility gradually returned to my legs, I crawled out of the water fearful of being labeled a wimp by the other boys. With the help of Advil and adrenaline, I finished the week, but the brutal pain forced me to swallow my pride and ask for help. After a month of tumultuous doctor’s appointments, an eight-hour MRI, and a bone marrow biopsy, at 11 years old I was thrust into the unexpected whirlwind of cancer and chemo. Many people have been instrumental in guiding me throughout these obstacles. Now, as a survivor, I can see how my experience was instrumental in shaping who I am today. This journey has shaped me into someone who is not defined by a medical diagnosis, but rather someone with an intense competitive drive, an insatiable curiosity, and a passion to help others.
Middle school and high school are traditionally times of discovery and increasing independence, which were at odds with my parents’ desires given my recent diagnosis. Growing up, my parents nurtured a competitive environment and although I missed close to sixty days of school my first three years of high school, I refused to compromise on that integral part of me. Despite significant side-effects, I maintained A’s and B’s in advanced classes, continued advancing through scouting, and placed top ten internationally in DECA. I learned that although my family wanted to protect me, it was important to me to exceed everyone’s expectations for the “Cancer Kid.”
My new cancer family acquiesced to my inclination for information. Although I was in middle school, my care team agreed I would be informed of all aspects of my treatment. Much like my father, I don’t like surprises and preferred to know “why.” When I was first prescribed the chemotherapy 6MP, the doctors indulged my questions and even explained the microbiological intricacies of inhibiting cell division, something that lowered the treatment’s emotional impact.
Throughout my five-year cancer ordeal, scouting remained a refuge allowing me a challenging outlet. With restrictions on camping for three years, due to my immunosuppressive medication, I enjoyed pursuing merit badges. The Genealogy badge was interesting as my extended family resides in India necessitating frequent calls in Hindi, Gujarati, and Kutchi all of which are languages essential to my heritage. Additionally, the Medicine badge, with its requirement for CPR and First Aid certifications augmented my desire to pursue in-depth medical experiences such as shadowing physicians at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. Given my unique perspective, I worked as a member of the Hematology/Oncology team and was trusted to educate patients facing daunting procedures.
Having been the recipient of tremendous compassion and being touched by numerous incredible foundations for cancer, I find great joy in my ability to serve and assist those suffering with a terminal illness. Early on, my mother encouraged public speaking, laying the groundwork for my current role as a speaker for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Beyond giving speeches, I was given the opportunity to be a Wish-Granter. Being part of the surprise brought back a flood of memories from when my own wish was granted and made me thankful to now give back.
No one wishes for cancer, but over five years later, I’m grateful to be able to go to school, go camping, or even just walk to my mailbox. As I further my education, my goal is to ultimately pursue a career in pediatrics. A medical degree is notoriously difficult, but if I can survive cancer, I can do anything.
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