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Multitudes Collection

Next Story: Cecilia


On staying true to yourself

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I grew up in Westchester, which is a suburb of New York City, and am the oldest of three children. My younger brother, Jack, is two years younger than me and I have a younger sister, Kate, who’s a year younger than Jack. 

While my parents already had three under three, there were two additional life changing events that introduced new levels of chaos into our home. The first is that my brother was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was eight months old, and my sister would later also be diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The second is my parents divorce when I was eleven. Despite the chaotic energy, my childhood was filled with love.

All three of us had an early loss of innocence because of how real life felt.

Cystic Fibrosis is a disease that causes the lung capacity of those who have it to reduce over time because of a buildup of what my parents used to refer to as “gunk”. My siblings’ lungs aren’t able to do away with excess fluid, resulting in worsening lung capacity. When Jack was born, the average life expectancy of someone with cystic fibrosis was under 40. I remember hearing that as a kid and thinking, “I could be a parent and not have my siblings around.” This reality registered with me from a very young age and the severity of the condition was never lost on me. All three of us had an early loss of innocence because of how real life felt.

Thankfully, we're really fortunate and Jack and Kate have had less severe cases than many people. Jack has had some issues with his digestive system and his cystic fibrosis has led to pancreatitis. It’s his pancreatitis that’s actually been much more problematic for him and still is to this day. My sister, on the other hand, shows no signs of cystic fibrosis, despite her having the two associated genes for it. We’ve had a very unique experience with this disease. We know so many families who have had more severe instances of cystic fibrosis, experiencing double lung transplants or lower life expectancy. 

Having two younger siblings who needed more attention and care meant that I had to be self-sufficient from an early age. A typical day would look something like: I would wake myself up, make myself breakfast while my brother and sister did some of their morning physical therapy exercises, then I would walk myself to the bus and go to school. The responsibility was really on me to complete my homework and do well in school, because the reality was that no one was checking. Knowing that I was accountable and independent is one way that my parents could navigate these early scary stages of having sick children.

My childhood has made me appreciate life so much more. In middle school our teachers would ask us, “what type of good do you want to do in the world”? It was really easy for me to think through that lens because of how tangible life’s preciousness felt. The realization that we have limited time here has pushed me to maximize every day. I’m grateful for this, but also acknowledge the stress that this filled me with as a 12-year-old who couldn’t quite wrap their head around the gravity of my siblings’ condition. 

As a result, every decision I’ve made in life has felt like the odds were stacked higher and the risk was greater.  I studied public health in college because I wanted to learn about all of the ways in which health impacts lives, because it impacts all of us, but in very different ways, shapes and forms. I’m always going to be someone who wants to contribute to something larger than myself, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I vividly remember my senior year of college when everybody was recruiting and landing jobs at top tier banks and consulting firms. I felt like an alien pursuing a path that didn’t prioritize income above all else. I had such a narrow minded view of professions at the time, you were either altruistic or you’re not, so I pushed myself toward a highly altruistic goal.

I felt like an alien pursuing a path that didn’t prioritize income above all else.

I applied and was accepted into the Peace Corps. Everything felt great until I was filling out my medical history. I got really scared and didn’t feel comfortable going. It was the realization that I would barely see my family for 27 months. My siblings have had a really difficult path because of their health challenges and it wasn’t until recently that they’ve found their way in the world and determined what they want to do and who they want to be. I felt that if I wasn’t there for that they may have gone down a different path, perhaps the wrong path. It was really important to me to continue to play an active role in my siblings’ lives as well as continue to support my parents.

I felt that if I wasn’t there for that they may have gone down a different path, perhaps the wrong path.

While I didn’t join the Peace Corps, I know that it was the right decision for me. I’ve come to understand that there is such a thing as balance where you can do your day job, but also consult for a cause that you care about. Through time and reflection, I’ve found my path and am proudly working in health tech where I can help thousands of people access care in a way that my parents could have only dreamed of in the 90s. Slowing down has enabled me to think deeply about who I am and where I’m going. I may not know exactly what’s next for me, but with my values to guide me, I know I’ll end up exactly where I’m meant to be.

Thank you for reading this story from the Multitudes Collection.

Our affirmation candles serve as a physical reminder to embrace your power. We donate 10% of revenues from our I Am Multitudes affirmation candle to the Radical Monarchs.

About Sam

Sam is a Product Manager at Zocdoc, whose mission is to empower patients by simplifying and streamlining their healthcare journey.

Affirmations and Mantras

Protect your peace

Not my circus, not my monkeys