I often reminisce on our LPHOH retreat. All of the great food, fun, and family will never leave my heart.
My father was a turtle. He loved the ocean, his nest, and loved to take every moment by moving slow and enjoying his surroundings. He lived with a hard shell on his back—friends left him, breast cancer bombarded him, and his family relied on him—yet he never gave up. When my family was chosen to go on our LPHOH retreat, it meant my dad could take off his shell, ride the waves, and celebrate life. LPHOH gave my father the opportunity put a pause on the tsunami that was his diagnosis and rejuvenate. This rejuvenation—the chance to meet fellow survivors and share their struggles in a care-free and judgement-free environment—gave him a new meaning in life. I wholeheartedly believe that LPHOH gave my father an additional year to live, since he was able to appreciate this Earth, acknowledge that his struggles were so uniquely his own yet so very human, and find beauty in the Southernmost point of the U.S.
Turtles get tired. It doesn’t mean that they are weak, it just means that after a long journey of fighting rip current after rip current they need a break. Cancer was my father’s rip current. After four long years swimming upstream, the current overtook him. This past summer I watched the waves of eternity wash over my dad, carrying my gentle turtle to rest. Nearing the end of our journey together, he was admitted for surgery to a nearby hospital. I visited him as often as I could, bringing him joy, food, and any amount of hope I could spare. I vividly remember using suction tubes to clear the saliva around his ventilator, transcribing
his raspy voice and hand-written messages for my family, and the paramedics carrying him on a stretcher to his final resting place—our living room. On July 29th, my dad—my most loving, caring, gentle, comic turtle—passed away. I learned that day that some turtles in our lives are on different currents, and that while we may not see them for a long while—as the ocean is a massive, deep, and overwhelming place—we will meet up with them one day in the future, on a sandy beach lined with pink houses.
Before getting transported home my father told my sister and me to “do great things, do the right thing, and look after each other.” He proceeded to ask me, “how are your college essays.” I laughed, as I hadn’t even brainstormed them yet. My father highly valued education—he pushed my sister and I to try new things and do our best. It is this everlasting push that is driving me towards college. I have found that I love trying new things, learning new material, and expressing my creativity. By attending college, I will be able to better myself and achieve the future my dad would have wanted me to have. In college, I plan to gain experience and an education that will prepare me to succeed professionally and personally.
For the longest time I have wanted to become a trauma surgeon. I am fascinated by anatomy, and by being able to save lives and always face new challenges, I believe trauma surgery is my calling. Helping others is an innate instinct of mine: whenever a classmate gets sick, I am one of the first responders. I have volunteered over sixty hours at the Give Kids
The World Village in Orlando. Here, critically ill children are provided accommodations for their Make-a-Wish Disney Vacations. Volunteering at GKTW has made my dreams of an M.D. more vivid. Going to college will enable me to reach my goals of becoming a trauma surgeon, all while making the world a better place. Per my father’s last words, my goals in life are simple: do great things, do the right thing, and look after my family. That’s it. Whatever wave I ride, these will be my North Star.
I often reminisce on our LPHOH retreat. All of the great food, fun, and family will never leave my heart. On our last day in Key West we took a snorkel cruise to a nearby barrier reef. After swimming all across this spectacular underwater realm, I noticed something in the distance. A gentle turtle swam towards our boat, its flippers magically caressing the ocean as if it were gliding across the sky. I was stunned that I had the privilege of witnessing such a majestic creature, and wondered what had got me to that point. LPHOH gave my family the opportunity to bond and make memories that we never would have been able make. As I watched the turtle swim away, I silently wished for one more day, one more hour, one more moment on my LPHOH retreat with my family. Even though breast cancer took away my turtle, I know that breast cancer has shaped my life in ways that I cannot begin to comprehend. Just like the turtle on the last day of my LPHOH retreat, my dad came and went with the current, but will never be forgotten.