Meet Amara Merritt
"Survival is not simply merely existing , it is living your life every day fully and completely. "
It is about learning to adapt and anticipate anything and everything every day of your life. It is about knowing your condition sometimes better than the people you are trying to figure out how to pay who are supposed to be helping you with it, and persisting in saying your part even when they don’t want to hear what you have to say. It is about living with hope and not focusing on the negative, fear driven images or reactions of others, but rather using your situation as a platform to teach others.
Every animal on the planet is built with inherent skills of survival, to eat, to breathe, to care for their young, etc., but when your life changes, not only do you have to deal with the basics of survival, but you also have learn how to navigate the technology and research and money issues to figure out what might work best for you and how do you get to it and do it and get through it.
Survival is not simply merely existing , it is living your life every day fully and completely, full of rich experiences, enjoying friends and family and nature and music and whatever it is that makes you feel good, feel alive. There is always an uncertainty of what might happen next which could just change from one appointment or scan or lab test or day to the next. That’s why you have to survive by expanding your knowledge about the world and daring to believe in the possibilities of tomorrow.
Survival is in my blood, through generations, my grandparents , aunts and uncles have all demonstrated how to live with Grace and class despite a cancer diagnosis. Even when my grandmother was in chemo, she wore matching outfits and always kept herself looking good and well composed which helped me keep myself together through my hard times. You can choose whether you want to merely exist, or do something meaningful with your life. I choose to do something with my life and make a difference in the world. I do not choose to simply exist, I choose to survive and thrive.
Please see below my commonapp essay which I think says it best, best to you and your organization in helping others and thank you for any consideration. After what we have been through, we need all the help we can get:
In a sense I have died several times, experiencing my senses leaving one-by-one in quick succession. Vision being first to go and touch the last. Feeling like a singular star in suspended animation drifting through the vast vacuum of space. I never woke up after I died. Every time I fell back into my body like comets falling to earth. I fell into my body after enduring a 7-hour surgery that saved my life. I fell into my body each time an attack occurred. I fell into my body after surviving a 9-hour surgery to slow the spreading cancer. I will never stop persisting against this invisible internal goon. I am special. Not because I play 5 instruments, fly planes, or speak Spanish and Chinese. Many people could do those things. I am a unicorn special. World renowned doctors from top facilities looked at me point blank and called me a unicorn. Because what I have occurs in about 1 in 3 million children and I have defied all odds. They said I was going to lose my voice, they said I might die. But I’m not ready to die. So instead, I speak. I fall into my body like meteor showers dusting the earth. I calmly explode like sun stars creating my own orbital systems. Swallowing the norm up in my black hole of creativity. Exploration is not a choice; it’s an imperative. I choose to explore new galaxies and to create my own. It is crucial to gain an understanding of how precious life is, how much we have to be grateful for, and how important persistence and hope are. You realize that there is always something good even in the bleakest situations.
At times I wallowed around, miserable. My father dead, medical bills mounting, my cancer diagnosis; everything seemed rather dismal. My grandfathers died within 2 months of each other, and despite our best efforts, another, even more extensive surgery was required. I distinctly remember lying on the floor of my grandmothers’ art studio shortly after my grandfather passed. I wondered if I would ever be able to draw again. I let my eyes gently glide over all the incredible work accumulated in her studio. During 60 years’ worth of artistic triumph despite her diagnosis of cancer, she never let anything blunt her ability to express herself. Cool tears were running down my face yet for some odd reason I was at peace, coming to the realization that life truly is what you make of it. Despite lacking functioning arms or clarity of mind, I could still create. I could still do something significant.
Unable to attend school due to continual and numerous medical procedures and treatments, I enrolled in virtual school and persisted. I worked online in between doctors’ appointments and airport terminals. Fighting to keep up with schoolwork lent some normalcy to a life turned upside down and helped me not feel as isolated from my friends whose busy lives, and perhaps fear, kept them away. I have had the opportunity to teach people older, and supposedly wiser than me, how to live hopefully, creatively and fully despite life’ s challenges. You take for granted things like your body working normally and effortlessly. Until something goes terribly wrong. What to wear to a party no longer held importance. Breathing and walking on my own became priorities.
I will not be defined by cancer. I will not let statistics of survival control my longevity or destiny. I have experienced life and death. I have felt the warm arms of starry heavens above encircle me, felt the embrace of a moral universe within. I voyaged nebulously through cosmic oceans and became a star. A star transformed into a comet consequently hurtling towards earth then falling into myself again. I never woke up after I died. I fell back into my body. I am a survivor and I shall prevail.