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Column

“Bethany, I have to tell you something. The doctor called and my tests came back. I have cancer, but it’ll be okay.”

Those weren’t the words I expected to hear when my little sister Becca knocked on the door of my res hall room last March, but I knew the results would be coming eventually.

After half a semester of doctor’s appointments, biopsies and tests, Becca had a thyroidectomy, and we had been waiting on the results.

When she told me what the doctors said, I broke down in tears, and she just stood there holding me and telling me everything would be okay.

That’s right. I was the one crying and being held, not my 18-year-old little sister who just found out she had thyroid cancer. The words that struck me the most weren’t the ones that told her diagnosis.

The words that truly struck me were the ones at the end of the sentence, reassuring that all would be okay even though she wasn’t sure what was coming next any more than I was.

In my eyes, my sister wasn’t okay. She sometimes had problems breathing, even gasping for breath for a couple of seconds at times, because of the growth on her thyroid pushing on her windpipe.

She nearly passed out after any kind of exercise, especially on the basketball court, and I would have to cover her in bags of ice to get her feeling somewhat normal again.

She was sleeping a lot—more than a normal tired college freshman—because her body was trying to fight the awful disease.

But Becca didn’t let any of that stop her. She didn’t want to be reminded of the many things that were wrong with her medically or to stop doing the things that she was told she couldn’t or shouldn’t do while she was sick.

While I continued to look only at what was wrong with her, she chose to look only at the positives.

She was still pushing herself to play her favorite sports.

She was still going to class and getting assignments done even with the low energy she had. And she was still trying to be a normal college freshman with her friends.

Despite being my younger sister, Becca became a role model of sorts to me that day.

She taught me to see her as the strong, independent 18-year-old college student that she is instead of a tired, sick cancer patient.

She taught me to look at the good things in any situation instead of all of the negatives. And she taught me that it will be okay at the end of whatever valley you cross through in life, even if you don’t see the end of it right now.

In the months since her diagnosis and recovery, I’ve learned that I can’t just stall during adversity; you need to push through and work your way through it.

But at the same time, I’ve learned that there is a time and place for rest. Finding a balance of work and rest is key, and sometimes I have to remember that I’m a person, not a machine.

I can’t do everything in the world, as my sister tried to do while she was feeling sick, but I can’t stop everything, as I tried to make her do.

Staying positive through trials and persevering isn’t easy; I will be the first person to admit that.

But having that attitude instead of a pessimistic one gets you through a whole lot easier.