7th grade summer vacation would be the summer I would never forget. My cousins had come from New York and we were set to travel to China to visit family. I hadn't been to Fujian since I was two years old, and I had never had the opportunity to learn about my origins, so I was especially enthusiastic to go on this trip with my entire family at such a significant age. However, as we begun eagerly planning our days together, we received news; my father had cancer. We knew my father had been nauseous, but had assumed that he only had the flu. We rushed to the hospital and it was there that we learned that my father had blood cancer: Leukemia. Needless to say, we immediately canceled our trip.
I had never seen my dad undergo such agonizing pain. I had always revered my father as the commanding, tenacious head of our family. However, now, seeing him colorless and fragile in the hospital bed, I felt powerless and resentful. As I walked away from the hospital, I began to punch the walls. Suddenly, I became cognizant of tears that were raining down my cheeks- was I being selfish? I realized that I needed to be resilient and courageous for my father. I pulled myself together and rushed back into the room where my dad was laying down. As I slowly approached the hospital bed, I looked at him with a hopeful smile on my face.
However, as the months passed, my father’s condition deteriorated. One day, my father’s oncologist came to give us the results of the latest tests. He explained that my father was in critical condition and that, without a blood transfusion, the prognosis indicated he had at most one month to live. Astonishingly, as devastated as we were, my father approached the situation with a newfound faith. Once a religious skeptic, my father began to pray to God. He found peace with his situation and focused on encouraging me and my siblings to aspire to our dreams and to never reject a challenge. I could not understand how my father so selflessly worried about us while he was in this condition. As I watched him endure the pain with a smile, I realized that my father was still fighting the cancer. Even though he understood what the doctors were saying, he refused give up, and I decided that neither would I. I fought through the tears and distress and pushed myself to enjoy the time I had left with my father, my mentor.
After weeks without positive development, the doctors discovered that my uncle had the same blood type as my father, and there was a possibility of a successful transfusion. My uncle came to the hospital and after waiting an excruciating six days, the doctors told us that the operation was successful. I never felt more elated than I did on the day that my father was finally released from the hospital, over a year from that dreadful summer afternoon.
I realize now that though I never had the opportunity to visit Fujian or explore my familial history, I learned more about myself in that year than I ever could have in China. I appreciate now that in life, we all experience challenging situations. As I watched my dad suffer and face death with hope and positivity, I learned that while we cannot control the outcomes of these circumstances, we do control how we respond to them. I saw my father struggle and I saw him recover, and through all of this I learned that I will have to respond to profound confrontations of my own someday and I will do so with the same maturity and responsibility that my father, demonstrated so that I will be able pursue my dreams to the fullest, even when life around me may seem bleakest.