The Spelling Bee

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

At 9 years old, I thought I would never have to wrap my head around any words more challenging than the one that caused me to come in second place at the county’s spelling bee. Of course, I was a fourth-grader, not a psychic, and just one year later I stumbled upon the words that put those now amateur spelling bee ones to shame: idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Forget spelling—my family and I could hardly process them as they tumbled out of my doctor’s mouth and hung in the cold hospital room air.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, is a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets, confusing them for antigens. This makes those afflicted with it, such as myself, more prone to excessive bleeding, bruising, and internal hemorrhaging. There was a certain irony about my own body making me sick in an erroneous attempt at keeping me healthy.

The first year was definitely the hardest. Although I did not know exactly what ITP was or how long it would persist, I still had to modify my lifestyle to accommodate it. This meant that while my entire fifth grade class was on the long awaited end-of-year field trip to Universal, I stayed home, safely within the confines of the bubble I now was restricted to, away from large crowds and under the watchful eye of my parents. I had to give up softball, knowing that the risk of a hit to my head that could induce intracranial bleeding was too high, no matter how much I swore the women’s professional softball league was in my future.

Not only did I have to readjust to this new aspect of my life, but I also saw the way it affected my family. The look on their faces, as they watched me getting countless intravenous immunoglobulin transfusions and a harrowing bone marrow biopsy, is something that has always stayed with me. Their little girl should have been outside, playing with friends, instead of lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a tangle of wires.

Despite all of this, we carried on. I continued going to school, albeit more cautiously. I had friends who were always understanding of my disorder, and when I had to sit out at recess, they sat with me. My family was always there to cheer me up, and provided a strong backbone for maintaining a positive attitude throughout the entire process. It was during this period that I expanded on my passion for reading and writing; when I often couldn’t experience the world around me firsthand, I created that world instead in the journals that littered my bedroom. I refused to let a flaw in my biology get the best of my mentality. While ITP is something that greatly developed and exemplified my character, it never became my character.

Now, nearly seven years after being diagnosed, a new word has been introduced to me: remission. For the first time since I had been living with this condition, my platelet levels are within a normal range. Of course, I shouldn’t be shot out of a cannon anytime soon, as my doctor put it, but I am certainly more free to live a life void of the constant worry of having to wear a metaphorical armor of bubble-wrap every time I leave the house.

I have come a long way since my spelling bee days, but one thing has remained true: with the supportive foundation of my family, as well as my innate resilience in times of adversity, I am confident to face any challenges I may encounter along the way to achieving my goals, including my hopes of continuing to develop my love for literature in both college and my future profession.

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