Meet our scholar recipients
Meet Amber D
"I am a survivor and I will make something from it."
On my mother’s birthday in 1999, the doctors gave me three more months to live, without treatment. We moved to St. Jude in Tennessee, immediately. I was two and a half. The small, sickly toddler I was had been given the diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. From then on, needles and chemotherapy plagued my life daily for three years as I struggled through disease. Tears generously stained my face for many days. But I was still a happy child, considering my condition, and Disney’s The Lion King played on repeat in my house as children with similar diseases came over to giggle and play. Even with the hair loss and bad days of chemotherapy, I was a typical toddler and I grew up with a love of life and opportunity.
My body beat the cancer after three years of treatment from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I was five and might not have understood what was happening, but I did know that the pain was over. One might think after a cancer patient goes into remission that everyday life is fine and dandy, but in actuality the struggle is not over. The aftermath is present in spite of everything, in spite of all the accomplishments already achieved by beating cancer. I have overcome countless side effects. Medical specialists speculated I would struggle in math. Instead, I have excelled in math, moving into advanced classes in high school, consistently scoring above standards. Doctors told me I would struggle in comprehending topics and ideas. This has proved true, somewhat. I do talk to my teachers and look for extra resources to teach myself material I do not understand. My efforts have paid off as English and Reading, the subjects I struggle in most, were my highest scores on the ACT.
Other trials come in a physical form, rather than affecting my mind or intellect. One complication came as a hereditary deformity of my Achilles tendon was worsened by cancer medication I underwent, it was physically impossible to walk in a heel-to-toe fashion. I walked on my tip-toes, for that was all I could do. Due to the advancements of my deformity brought upon by chemotherapy, surgery was required to correct my gait. An entire year of my life, during high school, was spent on crutches as I recovered and subsequently had to retrain my body to walk properly. It took three years to complete the healing of my tendons. Consistently faced with obstacles in my life, I have conquered tribulations and learned the value of perseverance.
Finding healing throughout my life has often left me wondering what my purpose is. Upon leaving childhood and entering adulthood, I have realized purpose is not given to me, but that I give myself purpose. Each person needs to find their own path, and each person has their own challenges along their way, but it is up to them to find where their love and motivation stems from as well as where they should tum to seek success. I find drive in helping others, intention in achievement, and aim in supporting others. The medical field has given me a second chance after facing imminent death. Therefore, the medical field is how I will give back. After undergoing personal experiences with intense physical therapy from the surgery on my legs, I know what a difference that field can make. Physical therapists gave me hope when I would fall time and time again. They gave me support, and encouragement, to jump outside my comfort zone to strengthen myself. I knew after that experience that I needed to become involved with the profession. The purpose I have given myself is to achieve the title of physical therapist and help patients one-on-one to exceed.
High spirits now follow me after being out of remission and cured. I recognize the chance I have been given to make something of my life; especially after all of my childhood friends were not so lucky to beat their individual cancers. I need to make a difference. Having been given so much, I strongly feel the necessity to help others in their distress and give them the support needed to help them have second chances, to let them excel. Becoming a physical therapist is my individual opportunity to revolutionize ailing patients’ circumstances. While I may not have understood the implications of surviving cancer when I was five years old, it has opened my eyes to struggle throughout the years, and cancer has given me resolve to reach for my dreams. I am a survivor and I will make something from it.