The retreat impacted me in many ways, but one lasting effect is that it taught me the importance of sharing experiences with the people I love.
2022 Scholarship Winner
I vaguely remember my parents telling me, when I was eleven, that my mom had breast cancer. I don’t remember what they said or how they said it, but I do remember my mom spending a lot of time in her bedroom and at the hospital. My grandmother moved into the spare room down the hall, while my grandfather drove two hours from Clarksburg, West Virginia, to spend the weekends with us. At that time, I didn’t know what breast cancer was, so I researched it on the internet. Although my mom faced an uphill battle that year, she was one of the lucky ones who fought the disease and won… or so I thought at the time.
Though I barely remember the details of my mom’s treatment, I vividly remember the Little Pink Houses of Hope retreat to the Outer Banks. It was the first time we were all joyful and carefree again. It felt like happiness rained down on us after a long drought. I remember kayaking with my little brother and learning to “steer the ship,” when I didn’t think I could. I remember sailing out to sea and having a water battle with rogue pirates and winning! I remember the thrill of eating out at different restaurants, which was huge for me since my brother has severe food allergies and we rarely eat out. Most importantly, I remember sharing all these experiences with my parents, brother, and grandparents.
The retreat impacted me in many ways, but one lasting effect is that it taught me the importance of sharing experiences with the people I love. My parents are frugal, and before the retreat, we rarely did anything extra when we went on trips and outings. After the retreat, however, we began splurging on little extras and treasuring those memories. My simple memory of choosing hand-dipped ice cream from a shop in the Outer Banks makes me smile every time I think of it, and now that memory is joined by other times we‘ve stopped at ice cream shops to have treats together. These memories are far more important than the dollars we could have saved by passing up those ice cream shops.
Another important impact of the retreat is that it made me realize that complete strangers can affect other people in positive ways. We all have a choice to live in a way that either improves or worsens the lives of those around us, so I’ve decided to try to have a positive effect on others. In this area, my grandfather has been an important role model for me. Recently, when discussing this scholarship and our Little Pink retreat, my grandmother explained that my grandfather was so moved by the kindness and generosity of everyone on the retreat, that he’s been making monthly donations to LPHOH for the last five years. I was completely surprised by this news because my grandfather is even more frugal than my parents!
I laugh about my grandfather refusing to wear new leather slippers he got as a gift because he says, “They’re too good to wear,” yet I’m humbled about him donating money so other breast cancer survivors can have the opportunity that was so meaningful to us. His example motivated me to think about what I could do to impact people around me. Since I excel in Math, I decided to join a friend who offers Math tutoring sessions to other students after school. I’ve found that I enjoy meeting and tutoring other high school students, and I intend to continue doing this in college.
My goal at college is to study Computer Science, and I’d love to have the opportunity to study abroad in Japan. The Japanese culture is very respectful, and I like that it values family and traditions. During the 2020 Covid shut down, I began teaching myself to speak Japanese, and I’ve independently studied the language for the last two years. I’m proud to say that I passed the first level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT N5) in Washington, D.C., in December. My ultimate goal, when I graduate from college, is to work for a Japanese technology company.
Until the other day, breast cancer seemed like a distant memory. My mother had been cancer free for five years, and this fact gave me a false sense of security. Unfortunately, her cancer just came back, and I’m still learning to accept her new diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer. I have fears about what the future holds, but I’m also, strangely, looking forward to college in the Fall. My family’s philosophy is to impact the people around us in a positive way, and they each achieve this goal using different approaches. My job at college is to figure out how I’m going to positively impact people in my own way, and I’m looking forward to figuring it out.