Meet our scholar recipients
Meet Esther Gritsko
"To me, its learning that survivorship is not a title but rather a state of being."
To me it’s a story. A perspective. A passion for life, for the hurting, for the future. To me, survivorship means having appreciation for life. I could be walking to class on the worst of worst days, then I will have an epiphany-I shouldn’t be here. The tumors should have eventually invaded my chest, stopping my thumping heart; I should be dead. But wonderfully, I am alive and well; and then even that terrible day is quite a wonderful gift. Survivorship is good. But it is not always easy. It means discomfort. It means wrestling with the fact that while I live, that while my battle is over, others will never hear the words of a good report, of remission. It means that in surviving the agonies of cancer, I cannot remain ignorant to the pains of others. Having faced the dreaded doctor ‘s phone call, the uncertainty of the months that lay ahead, and the horrors that life-saving chemicals brought to my body, I will always deeply grieve with those who face such troubles. Survivorship means a lack of words. It means that I can no longer parcel out cliche comforts like Santa parcels out gifts at the office Christmas party. Rather, survivorship has brought me into a community of brokenness, of not understanding yet holding on to hope. It has caused me to change my old assumptions about survivorship. To me it is so much more than overcoming a disease by decree of a doctor or surviving a certain number of years. It is an attitude that can be embraced regardless of the final diagnosis. Survivorship is taking the future, however uncertain it may be, and living it well with vigor. It’s equally viewing both the painful and wonderful facts of reality.
To me, its learning that survivorship is not a title but rather a state of being. As I walk past the children’s hospital where I was treated, I recognize that while I freely go in and out of those new, glass doors, some will not. The reality of this weighs heavy. Some will never be titled “survivor”. As I push the glass door open for my six-month check-up, the weight of it all pushes against me. I fight back; for to me, survivorship is so much more than being cancer free, of receiving such a title. It is courage. It is pushing back with hope for those who feel like there is none. It is pushing back the urge to make sense of it all and simply cry. It is the pushing back the dark, crushing despair with hope. So I go forward. Sure of the past and how my story, my survivorship story has given me perspective for seeing the beauty of this life that I have been given to live. I go forward, unsure of what to say or do for those that hurt but willing and ready to be with those do grieve. I go forward realizing that while survivorship in the classical sense may not be attained by all, it is so much more. Maybe through fighting the weight of this idea, the weight of this door, the light of hope can shine through for those who will never be able to open it.