Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Challenges and Triumphs

Challenges and Triumphs
Originally uploaded by fireater.
So for the Milken Award I had to write some essays about different parts of my teaching style, my career, aspirations and such. One question asked me to respond to the "biggest challenges and triumphs" in my life. I thought you all might like to hear what I wrote so here it is.

A year ago, I would have had a hard time finding examples to answer a question like this about challenges and triumphs but life last year has left me well versed in challenges, now I have plenty of examples. Last year, on December 31st 2005, my 3-year-old daughter Abby was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic, Leukemia. To put it simply this has been the hardest and most challenging yet also the most rewarding year of my life.

I don't know if I can explain what it is like to have a child with a potentially deadly illness. I don't know if I can put into words how it feels to hold your cold and clammy shell of a child on the 4th day of a 103 degree fever while a doctor tells you the diagnosis of cancer and then sends you rushing down to Denver all the while wondering if you will lose her before this is all said and done. I can't even begin to express how tough it is to not only watch your child get, but also have to give, chemo "medicine" that make her feel more sick than when she started; medicine that makes her faces puffy, her mood erratic, and her legs so week that she is left only to crawl around on the floor on the rare occasion that she feels like playing. How do you explain to a 3-year-old the concept of cancer? How do you explain to a child why they feel so miserable and why they don't have hair when other kids do? Why they have to wear a mask and can't go to play with their friends in Sunday school anymore?

Yes, I've had difficulties, and possibly will have even more before this whole thing is done. But in the midst of crazy life that I've taken on as normal, I also have seen some of my biggest triumphs. Obviously there is the triumph of my daughter beating this cancer so far, but even more so, I've got to learn more about what true relationships are. I've seen family and friends, students and coworkers rally around me and my family so much in this last year. This has helped me understand what love is in a way that I will never be able to explain or forget. I would say that because of this, the biggest triumph for me personally is my growth in humility. So many people have given so much to me and my family and I will never be able to repay them. All I can say is a simple, humble, "thank you".

Basically, before this happened I would have probably written a response to this question in a way that outlined my professional growth, maybe my job change and the challenges and triumphs that were involved. Now though, it is much different. I see triumphs all over the place. From the struggling kid that finally "gets it" to the love I feel from my friends and family, these are all big triumphs in my mind. But the biggest one of all is when I come home from work, open up the front door, and get to see my beautiful little girls, one bald-headed and one with hair, come running to give me a hug. Just the fact that I get to hold both of my girls in my arms is a triumph that I don't think I will ever fully be able to explain. I still get to hold both of them, they are both still alive, not just one, but both. what could be a bigger triumph than that?