Hardship Could Be the Best Thing That Ever Happens to You

On June 20, it will have been six years since the surgery that changed my life. I regret not embracing my adversity with the same inspiring intensity as Zach Sobiech did his, especially considering how much worse the adversity he faced was. However, I am incredibly grateful for my trials. Adversity is undervalued, but is arguably a wonderful and natural part of life. It led me to realize my dream of working in politics when I was 13, and it leads me to pursue my goals today.

My condition began in February 2006, when I was 13. I awoke in pain. I figured I was just sick — during my childhood I was frequently sick, especially once I turned 10 (which I later learned was due to fibromyalgia). I stayed home a few days; every time I tried to go to school, I ended up coming home early. I realized something was wrong.

My physician recommended I see a gastroenterologist. The gastro said I was “stressed” and should “go to the mall.” He then accused me of trying to get out of school, exaggerating, and lying. He told me he could perform tests but knew he would find nothing. I felt helpless — nobody had berated and doubted me like this before. I soon learned this would be a rule, and not an exception.

The next gastroenterologist acknowledged perplexing abnormalities revealed by several exams, but mimicked the previous gastro’s accusations and insults. In May 2006, a fourth misdiagnosed me with Crohn’s Disease after a procedure. However, when I informed him the medication he had prescribed was not working, he resorted to all the usual insults. Rather than admit he was unsure, he resorted to name-calling a 13-year-old, just as the other doctors readily had.

After innumerable similar scenarios, I moved on to my eighth gastro in December 2006 — the only gastro who made a good-faith effort to treat me and never doubted me. Previously, after a CAT scan revealed glaring abnormalities, I saw another type of doctor. My father inquired if I might have endometriosis, and the doctor replied that while my symptoms matched, I was “too young” to have it, and he didn’t bother investigating further. In December, we once again began to wonder. We asked the eighth gastro who said he could not affirm, as it was not his expertise.

In January 2007, a doctor suspected I had endometriosis. This doctor was genuine — he even gave me a hug when he saw me clutching my stomach in pain. He referred me to an expert in the field as well as to a pain management specialist so that I could live more comfortably until the surgery. The expert confirmed the diagnosis and scheduled a surgery.

In the interim, I saw the pain management specialist, who prescribed me various pain-killers. He was kind, respectful, and appalled by what I had been through. He said it was “obvious” I was telling the truth. I cannot verbalize how relieved I felt to know doctors finally believed me.

I learned that doctors would call me names when they didn’t know what was wrong with me. For one and a half years, I received no break from a wide array of debilitating symptoms as well as insults. However, adversity gave way to prosperity.

I have been Republican from the age of eight and I have always been a passionate debater — I used to advocate for my vegetarian lifestyle when I was a toddler and, when I became Republican, I debated people about my political views. Once I fell ill, I spent the majority of my abundant free time watching the news. I fell in love. Within months, I realized my dream of spending my life in politics to advocate for fiscal responsibility, common sense, and constitutional values.

When I awoke from my surgery in 2007, when I was 14, I thanked my doctor. I was excited to be well. He informed me I had one of the worst cases of endometriosis he had seen. I’ll leave you to research the disease on your own. It cannot be cured, though surgery can change its dynamic — often making the symptoms much worse or better. Fortunately, the latter characterized my case, and over time, my condition has become substantially more manageable.

Several years later, when I was 17, I looked into why I was constantly sick with colds. I researched my symptoms — my fight with endometriosis taught me that the only way to get something done is to take initiative. My research pointed to the possibility that I had fibromyalgia (often tied to endometriosis), so I saw a rheumatologist. He confirmed and prescribed me medication which has substantially helped my symptoms.

My ailments prompted me to discover my passion for politics, learn to advocate for myself, and to become resilient. I am eternally grateful for this, and I believe adversity is my life’s greatest blessing.

I missed a lot of school, which I believed was inevitable, though after watching Zach Sobiech’s video, I now don’t think it was inevitable. Even with terminal cancer, he was a ray of sunshine, and refused to stay in the hospital. My conditions are nothing compared to his, making me ever more regretful that, while I embraced my adversity, I did so nowhere to the extent he did. Zach reminds us that our lives are short, and we will face adversity to varying extents. If we want something, we need to pursue it during prosperity, but especially during adversity.

I no longer allow my conditions to stop me from doing anything. Months after my surgery, I joined my county’s Young Republicans organization and began pursuing my dream. The more than twenty doctors who treated me inhumanely, the few doctors who helped me, and the physical trials I went through, all strengthened me and enhanced my understanding of the world. Remembering how much more difficult life could be reminds me of all the reasons I have to smile and encourage others to do the same. I also worry that most people see adversity as an unfair evil rather than an opportunity to be enriched.

John Stossel is similarly concerned with America devaluing adversity. In an article, he explains “That passivity (and America's welfare state) is a threat to our future. Everyone goes through pain and loss. We face obstacles. It's the struggle to overcome obstacles that matters. That's the stuff of life — and the route to happiness and prosperity.” He makes a strong and accurate point.

President Teddy Roosevelt was also a sickly child, who stayed home and studied nature and history. He also “embraced a strenuous life” in spite of his weakness. It does not take much imagination to understand how this translated into actions he took throughout his life and during his presidency. This is just one of innumerable examples of how one prospers when spiting adversity.

People should value how wonderful life is — especially in America — and that accomplishing their goals and living their dreams is always a close reach. The way in which one overcomes trying times determines his character. I am so fortunate to have faced adversity and I believe it facilitated prosperity. I don’t even know that I would be in politics if not for the sickness I experienced. Living means pursuing what you want, enjoying life, working hard, making other people happy, and embracing adversity. It’s never too late to start.