GastroparesisI recently received news that my cousin (who lives in Puerto Rico) is ill again. The news made me think about a lot of things and gave me some perspective of what it means to be healthy. My cousin has had a hard life. At two years old she was diagnosed with cancer and spent most of her childhood in and out of hospitals. Not only was it tough on her but also on my family as well; we all suffered together. Her tumor was removed, and as time passed and she recovered, but was left with a lot of health problems due to chemotherapy. While in college she started getting really sick, and sadly was not well enough to attend family events such as my Quincenera, which is a very big tradition in Latin American families. At 18 she was diagnosed with gastroparesis, which is a condition that reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents. The cause is unknown, but scientists think it has something to do with interrupted nerve signals to the stomach.

This year my family and I (those who live in Boston) were all looking forward to seeing her in Puerto Rico for my younger cousin’s Quincenera, but she was unable to make it due to her illness, which has required multiple surgeries. The thing that amazes me is that even after having a life full of medications, doctors, and hospitals, she still manages to smile and be in a good mood. When my grandmother or my mother are crying about her condition, she will be there comforting them and telling them that “everything is going to be all right”.

I really look up to her because of her positive attitude. I thought to write about her because she’s one of the most influential and inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure to know. I’m honored to be related to her! Seeing my cousin live her life with a smile and love in her heart and pouring herself into activities that she loves without her condition holding her back makes me want to enjoy life even more. A story like this makes you realize your blessings and appreciate your health. It also gives you incentive to live your life with open arms and love in your heart for people (such as my cousin) who sadly are held back from many things in life because of their sicknesses. So appreciate what you have and strive for what you love.