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Nancie Steinberg's Essay - Successful recovery of a Californian student- Mar 1998

Personal Statement: (11/3/98 UC College Application Essay)

Throughout my entire junior year, I had been planning and dreaming about our family's trip to France in July. Not only was I eager to practice the language that I loved and had studied for four years, but I would also be able to spend those two weeks with my sister Nadia. I had not seen Nadia since March because she had spent the spring studying in Germany. For months, we had talked excitedly about seeing each other again in Paris and all the sightseeing we would do. During our vacation, however, I was tired. I assumed my exhaustion was due to the ear infection that had been treated a few days after my arrival in France. Little did I know then how much my life would change -- at first for the worst, but ultimately for the better.

After our return to California, my fatigue persisted, and I began to worry that something more serious was wrong with me. There were days when I lay on the couch, unable to move or smile, wondering whether I would ever get better. I visited many doctors before any could diagnose my illness. They finally deduced that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a condition that often lasts for months, and for which they had no treatment or cure.
I tried to tell myself to be grateful that I had nothing life-threatening. But I was not grateful. Summer, the season I look forward to the entire year, had passed, and I had not been able to enjoy it. As the first day of my senior year approached, I almost convinced myself that I would be fine. I attended every class, but I was exhausted. I met with my counselor in tears because I knew I would not be going to school. We arranged for me to continue my courses through home-teaching.

Then my father located on the web the name of a doctor in South Africa who had great success with Chronic Fatigue patients. Four days later Dr. Nash Petrovic agreed to treat me, and for the first time in weeks I began to be hopeful. I slowly overcame my self-absorption and pity. I could finally see beyond my illness and me.

On September 26, 2 big boxes from Dr. Petrovic arrived, and I started my treatment that involves a daily dose of nearly 100 vitamin/anti-oxidant/enzyme tablets. As my physical symptoms gradually improve, I am now able to see what I have personally gained and continue to learn from my experience. I realize that I have never been so humbled in my life. In the beginning, it had been difficult for me to tell people how sick I was because I did not want to admit that I had a weakness. Now, however, I know that I am a stronger person because of this weakness. I have learned to handle setbacks with more maturity and patience. My empathy for those who are ill has grown as well. All the times I have visited sick people at home or in hospital rooms with flowers and warm wishes, I never knew how they felt. Now I do. I never thought I could be more sensitive. Now I am.

My illness has forced me to put my life in perspective. Before I was sick, school was my top priority. I have now learned that health, happiness, and the love of family and friends matter more than any tennis match or homework assignment. When my mother asks me to look at a beautiful sunset or a full moon, I don't say I'm too busy studying; I take her hand. I can distinguish between what is significant and what is not, and I am amazed by the triviality of so many of my past worries and complaints. When only a month ago it was an effort just to walk, how could I have been so upset last year about not having a date for Prom? In only three months, I have gained a lifetime of insight and understanding so that even when I am healthy enough to return to my former lifestyle, I will not.

When I think of myself in Paris last summer, I realize how much I have changed. I have met one of life's challenges with the courage and determination to grow from it. Life has new meaning for me because I now understand that the future is too unpredictable to allow the present to be taken for granted. When I fully recover, I will appreciate each day as a gift. No longer will I say I "have" to go to school; learning will be an opportunity, not a duty. I will honor this second chance to pursue my dreams.

And I will always be grateful to Dr. Petrovic.

Nancie can be contacted via her father Prof Dr S. Elghobashi -Professor and Chair / Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department / University of California in Irvine selghoba@uci.edu


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