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I became desperately devoted to my education because I saw knowledge as the key to freeing myself from the chains of ignorance.While learning about cancer in school I promised myself that I would memorize every fact and absorb every detail in textbooks and online medical journals.
Before I could resolve my guilt, I had to broaden my perspective of the world as well as my responsibilities to my fellow humans.
Volunteering at a cancer treatment center has helped me discover my path.
When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry--mostly with myself.
They had wanted to protect me--only six years old at the time--from the complex and morose concept of death.
However, when the end inevitably arrived, I wasn’t trying to comprehend what dying was; I was trying to understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV.
Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing.
Upon our first meeting, she opened up about her two sons, her hometown, and her knitting group--no mention of her disease.
Without even standing up, the three of us—Ivana, me, and my grandmother--had taken a walk together.
They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds.
It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.