Throughout my younger years, I took dance classes off and on again. It was around eleven years old that I wound up having an experience which would shape the course of my life; impacting me deeply forever more. Up until this point, I never gave serious thought to what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was always just the unrealistic fantasy of filling in the gaps of classical training I had missed during the months I wasn’t enrolled and becoming a world famous ballerina, somehow. Someway.
Then Elysia got sick.
This girl, a whole year younger than me but decades wiser and more mature, captivated my attention the first time I ever saw her. Her personality and charisma were twice the size of her actual body. Her talent, tenfold. Elysia was angelic in beauty, graceful in presence, and passionate about living with every breath she took and leap she made. To see this girl begin to wither and shrivel like a flower in a vase a few days after plucking, was inconceivable. We all just expected her to come in to class one day and be back to normal.
She got paler. Thinner. Weaker. Her hair started falling out. It hurt her to dance. She had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a progressive bone cancer that prefers the spine. It was an advanced case and treatment options minimal. Yet, she never missed a single class. Elysia would always be there, regardless of how sick she felt or how viscous the cancer ravaged her once strong body.
Puke bucket beside her and blanket for warmth across her lap, Elysia laid on the tumbling mats in the far corner of the studio watching us dance for her. When our work was done, the older, student teachers would take turns carrying her or giving her piggy back rides, dancing with us little ones running around being silly so Elysia would never feel left out or alone. She was the glue which held our studio together, filling the place so full of innocence and light it was going to burst with all the love and laughter which followed.
The inevitable heartache came on St. Patrick’s Day. I have always found this to be quite the irony, because the atmosphere the holiday produces is reflective of Elysia’s free spirit and happy-go-lucky nature; just too perfectly fitting for her death. Elysia was an earthly angel to so many people in her short time here, it continues to amaze me to think about all the love surrounding her.
During her two-year battle with cancer, she had befriended many famous people through charity organizations to help her with her bucket list of wishes before fate collected it’s prize. One of them was the captain of the Red Wings NHL team at the time, Steve Yzerman. They were in the midst of playoff season, with a game being played on that painfully tragic night. The scoreboard glitched and the power in the arena flickered the moment Elysia took her last breath- records and documentation have been checked and rechecked to make certain it is, indeed, a fact. Steve wrote her initials onto his hockey stick and then scored a goal in her honor when the call came in, shortly thereafter.
After watching cancer drain the life from such a strong, able-bodied, little girl, my life could never possibly be the same. Most of my remaining innocence was taken on the day we lost Elysia. She was the second friend of mine to pass away in barely a year, which weighed heavily on my soul; just a child myself, unsure of the meaning of life, and now trying to understand the meaning of death. It was life altering.
It was during this time, I decided there must be a greater purpose in losing two friends so young than discovering my own predisposition for depression. Determined, I knew I must use this experience to help others, somehow. I rose out of the ashes of my friends, like a Phoenix, reborn with a newfound passion for living, as Elysia and Leia both had once shared. It was in this moment I realized my own talent would serve me well to do just as much.
No longer did I fantasize over unrealistic idealisms of childhood, believing in the impossible. Becoming a ballerina seemed so trivial after death came into existence. Instead, I focused on an avenue where I could directly impact someone’s life when they are at their most vulnerable. My love of science, especially the workings of the human body took an obsessive turn when Elysia was first diagnosed, because I wanted to know everything about the disease and what was happening inside of her. This led me to conclude: I wanted to be a Nurse. Preferably a pediatric oncology unit nurse…It was the coolest job of all to me through middle school and high school. I didn’t become one, choosing a different path through the medical field, but helping those who aren’t in a position to help themselves do anything more than stay alive, nonetheless.
In the end, though, I chose to go back to focusing on my other passion in life; a passion also discovered in the wake of my friends’ untimely deaths… writing. For my voice, just like my knowledge of physiology and medical protocol, can help so many others going through something in life. And that’s really the coolest job to have, because there’s no better feeling than knowing you are the light shining in the dark surrounding somebody…somewhere.
Day 3 prompt: What did you think was the coolest job in the world when you were younger? Do you feel that way now? #NaBloPoMo
By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom