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Scholar Quote: As many challenges come my way, I've seemed to create an increasingly picturesque mosaic through resilience, understanding, and self-exploration to overcome them.

“Avani Ghosh?” an unfamiliar voice called as it searched for recognition, “we’re ready for you.”

A dissonant cacophony of silence fell over us as we walked into a lifeless room. Words kept pouring into my brain as if they were a broken cup that could never be filled.

I propped myself up onto the bed as a myriad of tubes held me captive. A bag of chemotherapy began to circulate into my bloodstream, leaving the taste of bitter metal marked on every juice box I drank. The countless “code blues” and beeping of hospital monitors stretched into a ring in my ear. At the time, cancer was a foreign term to me, and yet this very stranger was so close that it turned me into a foreigner to myself. I had to get out of this room.

Every single day of chemotherapy came ad nauseam-debilitation growing with every dose. Doctors bustled through the doorway as they hurried to tell me that my immune system would be ripped apart, that Bleomycin could cause hypertension, or that Cisplatin would lead to tinnitus–most of which seemed like a maze of medical jargon that I couldn’t understand. All I heard was broken. Broken. Broken.

The word seemed to linger ominously as a vase of wilted flowers suddenly shattered.

Broken. Broken. Broken. As I fixated on the entropic mess, I wondered if beauty could ever come out of such chaos. I began to pick up the pieces and placed them on my table, making a mosaic–a picture created by piecing together different shapes.

Perhaps I could be a mosaic too, I thought. I couldn’t control that an intruder had broken me, but I could choose what I did with the pieces. I had a canvas in front of me–a canvas marked with scars from countless surgeries and tears from hours of picking out clumps of my hair. But, I could finally accept the chaos that made my canvas–the spaces in between the pieces-as a grotesquely beautiful part of me. I colored my canvas with pieces of joy through my hobbies of piano and writing. I found pieces of resilience in myself and the community around me. I subsisted on pieces of discovery through learning about my condition and what I could do to expedite my recovery, an approach I now regularly use when I encounter an obstacle. I began to learn more about how different diets could alleviate some of the side effects of chemotherapy.

My curiosity led me to start a research project on the effects of a whole-foods-plant-based diet on hemoglobin glycation and how it might improve the quality of life for cancer patients. Through endless hours of investigation and experimentation, I’d found a new piece of myself: a passion to improve treatments for cancer so that they aren’t as destructive as chemotherapy, a goal I hope to work towards throughout my life. I learned to love the mosaic I am–a collective of not only my curiosity and ambition, but also of my perspective, my experiences, and the people and communities that have passed on their pieces to me. As many challenges come my way, I’ve seemed to create an increasingly picturesque mosaic through resilience, understanding, and self-exploration to overcome them.

The cacophonic silence I had first stepped into wasn’t the sign of an end, but rather the symbol of a beginning-an unfinished symphony ready to be filled with my story.

“Avani,” a now-familiar voice said, ”your tumor markers are finally low. We’re done with treatment.” I had finally left the room.

Even so, the process of creating a mosaic never ceases. With each new experience, a new challenge, and new mistake, the pile of broken pieces grows. The scats on the canvas deepen, but every single time, I choose to pick up the pieces and continue creating my mosaic. I am this mosaic: poetic art built from chaos.