When I was 22-months-old, I had Medulloepithelioma, a rare form of cancer in the front of my eye. This left me with a daily reminder. It is not a remembrance that I had cancer, or have a prosthetic eye. It is a reminder of my confidence, strength and bravery. It is a reminder to wake up each morning with a purpose. It is most importantly, a reminder to always be kind to others.
Growing up, my parents raised me as if I did not need anything special, and I did not realize that I even had a disability. By the time I turned six, I had started playing tennis, soccer and horseback riding. The doctors told my parents that I would never be able to play sports, drive a car and countless other things. However, my parents never once let me think that I was at a disadvantage to my peers. They helped shape my confidence and passion, and for that I am forever grateful.
I have always, and predict that I will always, receive double takes, stares and questions when I am in the presence of strangers. At one point in high school, I covered half of my face, particularly my eye, with bangs. Little did I know that covering my eye would bring even more attention to it. Going to an all-girls school exposed me to a lot of judgment and cattiness. I knew that I could not eliminate my imperfection, so I had nothing to do but hold my head high and smile at anyone and everyone I encountered.
Everyday, I am reminded that I have the confidence to do anything I set my mind to, despite my disability. I have the confidence to empower other women and speak my mind in hopes that I will encourage others to follow their beliefs and dreams. I have never once felt inferior to others, and my daily reminder gives me the confidence to face any challenge with optimism and without fear.
Having cancer gave me strength, and not just to overcome my illness. I am strong enough to do the impossible, and countless times when I have been told I cannot do something, I have done everything in my power to make sure I proved that I could. I often have ideas that are out of the box and easily unattainable, but I have learned to never give up. My parents never gave up on me, my peers never gave up on me and there is no reason I should ever give up on myself.
Having grown up with one eye has enabled me to be more aware and sensitive to others. I watch people carefully, observing their body language, trying to understand who they are and what their challenges may be. I am more respectful of others and I always make a point of lending a helping hand to make sure that no one is ever left out.
Having cancer was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Everyone says that having cancer changes their life because of the challenges they face and the long hours of treatment and suffering, but having cancer made me a better person. At the end of each year, I make a resolution to be a better version of myself and I owe it to the attributes I have acquired due to my illness and daily reminder. It changed my life in an extraordinary way. The unparalleled stares I receive, the exceptional strength and confidence that I have and the moment I take each day to recognize the beauty in my blemish together have all made me who I am today. The individualism that Medulloepithelioma left me with has allowed me to be a better person.