A personal narrative of the times in my life I wouldn’t let myself give up and neither would my parents. Thank you mom and dad.
With puffy eyes and a runny nose, I ask my mom once again, “Mom why would God make me hurt so much if he loves us?”
A fourth grader shouldn’t wince at the thought of God. Am I being punished? Does he not love me? It’s a question I think about a lot. I always look forward to these bedtime talks with Mom, she’s the only one who seems to get it.
She chokes as she begins; I can sense the stinging sadness in her voice. After searching for the right answer she finally replies, “He made you have all these things so you can do something amazing one day… He wouldn’t give you all this if he knew you couldn’t handle it. You are so strong Shi.”
Not convinced again, I give her a kiss goodnight. Moping to my bedroom, I climbed into bed with my stuffed animals and position them for another long night. They never complain though, not even when four a.m rolls around and the prayers haven’t taken away the pain yet.
Growing up with constant pain has always been an internal struggle. Especially when your mom believes she must treat you as gentle as a feather, and your dad doesn’t believe in babying. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “if you baby it, it’ll only get worse…”
Days of considering all my options and having secret meetings with Dad, I came to the conclusion: I was going to play basketball. Mom gasps with horror at even the thought of it.
“Shilynn, the doctors said absolutely no contact sports,” she sighs. I hear this time and time again. She worries. What if you’re not careful enough? What if someone pushes you too hard? What if you get whiplash again? These are all questions she went over and over again with me, but my eager heart didn’t care. I just wanted to do something everyone told me I couldn’t, except my dad.
“Mom, I’ve never been able to play a sport and I really think basketball is cool. I always see Dad playing it and it looks so fun,” I whine. I make a note not to mention how rough Dad and his friends really play.
I never really was interested in any sports in specific, but I just wanted to be like other kids and play on a team. I go on to play basketball, but only for half a season. Soon after I start playing, I’m beginning to lose feeling in my fingers. At the time I was actually intrigued, I’ve never felt anything like that. The tingling sensation first began at my fingertips. Slowly beginning to travel to my thumbs and eventually my entire hands. The curiosity was short-lived. Once the tingling became followed by lightning through my arms, Dr. Wilson tells me I need to quit the team. I need to have neck surgery as soon as possible. I may go paralyzed.
What are people going to think? What will my neck look like? It’s going to hurt so bad… These thoughts viciously cycle my mind as the first month of my summer consists of me isolating myself in fear. Sitting in the cold basement, petrified of what’s to come.
My dad never let pain control me. He never told me I couldn’t do something just because of my limitations, but instead motivated me. He taught me that failure is not an option. Quickly after my surgery he made me walk around without help.
“She’s not supposed to be walking without help yet! She could fall,” my mom exasperates. Her eyes are heavy from the night before. I woke everyone up after I nearly fell rushing to the restroom. Note: do not eat pizza rolls for a week straight after an intense surgery. They will not leave your body the way they should, and you will have them come out your nose.
“You’re fine Shi. See… she’s got this. She’s fine,” my dad says trying to convince my mom and I. I’ve always been stuck in a limbo of pushing my limits and playing it safe.
Next thing I know, the brace is off. Soon I am doing everything I used to do before. Without my dad, I don’t believe I would’ve had the perfect balance of nurture and drive to grow.
Speeding ahead to junior year I am living my best life. I have a job, a boyfriend, and I live in a new city. Suddenly one day, everything changed.
“Something just doesn’t feel right,” I say to my mom.
“What do you mean? Describe it,” she asks. That stinging sadness in her eyes I used to remember is now replaced with lip quivering fear, but now for both of us.
“It feels like someone is squeezing my entire head. Like a one hundred ton weight is crushing it every second of the day,” I gasp. “It hurts to even breath.” The pain is too intense; I have to sit down.
She furrows her brows, “We’ll get you in to see Dr. Wilson as soon as we can.” There’s nothing more she can do. The pain is invisible. I beg and cry to see him sooner, but it has to wait.
I sit through class every day. Wanting to scream and cry. No one understands this pain. No one can help me. I’m going to be stuck this way forever. The results of my spinal cord slowly being cut away: all of my sense of the world around me begins to slip away. I cannot hear or understand what people are saying. I can’t see, and I almost lose consciousness every time I drive. I refuse to quit. Failure is not an option. I still come to school ready every single day, because I remember what my parents have always told me: “You are so strong Shi. You’re going to do amazing things.”
Months and months go by and my mom helps me in every way she can. Doctor appointments, countless medicine, and even letting me have as many days as I need to rest. My dad, he supports me on the side. Giving me words of encouragement on the days I am closest to giving up. Once it’s time for my second and final neck surgery I know I am ready this time. The insecurities, anxiety, and worry are all gone. I know how to handle this. I have time and time before.
How did my parents shape me to handle life’s challenges the way I do? Without my mom’s constant nurturing nature and my dad’s undying drive, I wouldn’t have been able to survive what I have, and what I will in the future.