The volunteers made every activity so special and personal, and the connections and relationships made on this trip will always stay close to our hearts.
On one warm summer afternoon during June 2018, my mother called my sister and me down to the kitchen. She was sitting at the table, pale and sickly looking, but had the widest smile on her face that I hadn’t seen for weeks. She pulled up an email to show us, one sent from a program I have never heard before.
“Little Pink Houses of Hope”, she explained, “We have been blessed with a weeklong retreat from a program called Little Pink Houses of Hope! Girls, we are going to Key West!!”.
Excitement filled the room as she spoke these last words, and the three of us began to jump around the kitchen, laughing with glee. Key West was a place I always wanted to go to, with its white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters, and as she explained the program and what this trip would consist of, I became more and more excited.
To learn that we were going to get a break from the hardship we had been facing for the past year was such a relief. Our lives had been turned completely upside down and changed since August 1, 2017, a day I will never forget.
Sitting outside, the warm summer air embracing me warmly, I watched my sister as she chased our dog around the yard that fateful day. The only worry in my head was my first day of high school, beginning in just three weeks, and I was so scared. My thoughts were interrupted by the creak at the front door. My dad came outside, the color had left his face completely. Looking closely, it looked as though he had been crying. He called for us to come inside, and so we did. Rushing inside, the two of us halted to a complete stop. My mom was sitting on the ground, head in her hands and sobbing.
When she saw us, she started to begin crying harder and could barely speak. My dad then took us into his arms and whispered the worst sentence I have ever heard.
“I’m so sorry girls. That was the doctor calling. Mom has cancer.”
The word cancer ran through my head.
“What?”, I thought, “How could this happen?”.
My family and I already had to suffer through cancer before, with my dad being diagnosed twice when I was younger, and now it affected my mom. My strong, beautiful mom, who already suffered enough. I immediately began sobbing uncontrollably, and my sister, who was ten at the time, stood there dumbfounded at what had just occurred. My mom, who was the rock of my family, was sick, and it was as if we all were.
This was the worst day of my life. I had been left with the worst news I have ever heard, and had no idea what the future held for me. Not only did I have to deal with the change into high school, but also with a huge change in my life. I didn’t know what to do. My freshman year of high school arrived in a flash, and as I tried to study hard and retrieve good grades to make my parents proud, I struggled hard with the situation back at home.
I made it throughout the year, stressed, but feeling accomplished, and receiving this news of the retreat made it feel as though working hard that entire year had been worth it. Now, my family and I were headed down for a fun and relaxing trip to the beautiful destination of Key West.
As our car drove into the island, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Key West was just as beautiful as I imagined. The week spent in Key West was the best week of my life. Little Pink Houses of Hope filled out vacation with fun activities, such as paddle boarding, movie nights on the beach, the butterfly museum, sunset cruises, dinners, and more.
The volunteers made every activity so special and personal, and the connections and relationships made on this trip will always stay close to our hearts. I left that retreat feeling as though I had been given a break from hardship back home and could really enjoy myself for the first time since the diagnosis. I was able to bond with the other kids and families on the trip and made many strong friendships that I still hold today.
My family and I grew closer with this trip, and we were able to bond, relax, and have fun with each other without the thought of cancer brooding over us. I was able to finally look toward the future with positivity and hope, while uncertainty and sadness had blurred it for so long.
Now, three years later, I am a senior in high school and preparing myself to enter college. In the future, I hope to enter a stellar nursing program, graduate as a high-achieving Registered Nurse, and then continuing my career, obtaining my master’s and becoming a Nurse Practitioner.
Throughout my life, I have watched nurses care for both my mother and father as they were treated for cancer. With my dad’s thyroid cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer, I watched nurses care for him and bring smiles to his face during these dark times. Just two years later, when my mother was diagnosed, I saw how nurses gave her hope through compassion and skill as she went through chemotherapy and radiation.
The happy smiles they put on their faces and the comfort they brought to them during their scariest moments inspired me greatly. To be able to care for and save others with this same compassion and intelligence is exactly what I want to do in life. I know I will excel at cultivating a strong connection with the families and really help them through the difficult time that I know they are struggling through.
I have been inspired to serve my community, just as my parents have with their occupations as well. Throughout my life, I have watched my parents professionally serve their community as a public school teacher and police officer. This has inspired me to do the same with my future career. In nursing, I will be able to help people, just as I have seen my parents care for others. Taking care of others, especially the sick and hurting, is my passion, and to do this as a stellar nurse is my dream.