Lucye Rafferty/The Hoya Dorothy Fink

“It seems like only yesterday .” I remember these words came up over and over again during high school graduation. And now, four years later, I find myself saying them again. But I feel like I’m in a dream. How are our college years coming to a close?

During the last week of classes, I hosted an end of the semester farewell get together for my floor, and as I was cutting into the Oreo ice cream cake, I received a call from Brittany. I left the lounge and went into the hallway to talk with my friend. Brittany was calling to read her graduation speech to me.

Brittany is one of those amazing people whom I have met here at Georgetown – not during NSO or in Harbin, but on the other side of campus, in the Lombardi Cancer Center. As Brittany read her speech for me, I thought back to the first time I met her – during my sophomore year when she was in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatments. She had just been diagnosed with leukemia a few days before her sixteenth birthday and was not allowed to leave her room. I had to put on a mask when I would visit to keep her company.

From the moment we met, Brittany and I realized how much we had in common. We both love watching Broadway musicals, dancing and performing. I continued to visit Brittany during her two-month hospital stay, and we became good friends. Some days she would be feeling okay and we would talk forever and other days, she just wanted me to sit there and be with her. It was heartbreaking to see such a young person coping with such an emotionally and physically draining illness.

After Brittany was released from the hospital, she would still come back for checkups, and I would go to the clinic to see her. Brittany would also come to Georgetown to stay with me. We would go to movies, musicals, adventures downtown to the museums and shopping. She loved to hang out with my roommates and younger sister Katie.

The good news is, Brittany was declared in remission a year and a half later, and her family recently moved to San Diego. She is graduating from high school in June, and is as full of energy as ever. It was great to hear her hopes and dreams for the future as she read her graduation speech to me. Brittany continues to inspire me – a young person who has been through so much, yet still has such a great attitude about life.

Knowing how much it meant to Brittany for me to be there as she faced the biggest challenge of her life made me realize how just being there to listen to someone can make a huge difference. You don’t necessarily have to “move mountains” as Dr. Seuss says – after all, we’re just college kids. But spending time with a young person, whether it was through the Oncology Patient University Student program that I participated in, or after school tutoring programs, can mean the world to him or her and can ultimately end up changing your life, too, as I’m sure it has.

One thing that I still think about is what I used to always wonder as I left Brittany’s hospital room two years ago: “She’s only sixteen years old – why do such horrible things have to happen to people like her?” So many times in our lives we have and will come across situations where we must face terrible circumstances or we know of people who seem to be tested beyond the call of what any person should have to deal with, whether it is cancer, as in Brittany’s situation, or a parent or close family member dealing with a life threatening illness or even dying. Our inner strength is tested over and over again.

In their last chance lectures, Dr. Daniel Porterfield (CAS ’83), Rev. Ryan J. Maher, S.J. (CAS ’82) and Dean Robert Gallucci, as well as Maria Shriver (CAS ’77) in her convocation speech, addressed many of the issues we’ll be dealing with when we face the “real world.” Like many of us, I’ve decided to stay in school for a few more years, so I won’t have deal with some of the real life issues just yet. But the truth is, there is always something happening in our lives that we question. Do I believe in fate? Well, I don’t know for sure. But I definitely know that things have a way of working out. This past semester, I’ve been working with Sen. William Frist’s (R-Tenn.) health policy team. One day Senator Frist told me that he believes that there is a degree of serendipity in everything, but the attitude with which you receive what comes to you in life is what really makes the difference. I couldn’t agree more. Our experiences over the past four years have tested each and every one of us, each in our own way. The good news is, we’ve made it! There’s still more to come . and by approaching our lives with the right attitude and laughing lots, we’ll be living a life full of happiness despite the ups and downs of the real world.

Dorothy Fink is a senior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

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