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One Tough Girl

Natalie Tusick


$1000 Winner

"Sometimes I think about how different of a person I would be if I had grown up with all sisters instead of three brothers. Not only am I the only girl in my family, but I come from a long line of successful wrestlers, who passed their passion of this intense sport on to my dad, then passing it along to my brothers. That being said, since I have been surrounded by this masculine, wrestling-type mindset ever since I was a little girl, I like to think of myself as much tougher than most girls out there! Although this seemingly applies to physical strength, I am referring to the emotional and mental strength I've obtained from growing up in this tenacious environment. Throughout my whole life, I never really let any negative or hurtful situation out of my control get to me or affect me moving forward. Maybe I’d shed a few tears at first, but immediately after, the logical and “tough” side of me would intrude and tell me to “toughen up Natalie, you don’t deserve to be sad- it could always be worse!” I took comfort in the fact that everything always ended up being okay, and that I still have it a lot better in life no matter what it may be than most people out there. However, this mentality was truly put to the test for the first time exactly one year ago. My little brother was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia- a form of blood cancer. I do not wish for the feeling that I felt during this whole agonizing time upon absolutely anyone. My “logical” side was completely overruled by my emotional side for the first time in my life. I could not handle the shock, sadness, heart break, and confusion I had felt, and still in waves feel, when wrapping my head around this new terrible concept: my little brother has cancer. ​Cancer. ​The word alone is enough to send chills down my back. It’s an unfortunately common disease that I never thought was

going to directly affect me, until it did. You hear of older people getting cancer, or those who inevitably give it to themselves by unhealthy lifestyle choices, but never Timmy. The clean eating, dedicated, hard working wrestler, Timmy; my little brother. I always emphasize the word “little” when referring to him because that is a huge factor in what caused so much pain for me. I watched him grow up, I took care of him when he needed it, I looked out for him, I supported him in wrestling, I travelled with him. All twenty years of his life, I have always been there watching him grow. Twenty years later, and instead of watching his skateboard tricks or wrestling pins, I had to watch him go through heavily toxic chemotherapy procedures. I had to go on with my life while he was forced to put his entire life on hold for something he is completely undeserving of. And the worst part is, there was really nothing me or anyone could do to help or turn it around. I could not go back to school or focus on anything else while my sibling’s life consisted of extremely painful and uncomfortable chemo treatments and never leaving a hospital bed. While I was writing essays at school, my nineteen year old brother was writing his will to live. I couldn’t, “toughen up Natalie it’s fine!” my way out of this one. I was deeply hurt. It is truly traumatizing to go through this just being his older sister, so I cannot even imagine the level of misery my parents felt. My mom and dad never pass up a chance to remind my brothers and I how much they love us or how important we are to them, so hearing from the doctor that one of their beloved children was diagnosed with a chronic disease had to have been a complete hell for them. I find it ironic that Timmy

was getting needles stabbed into his spine every Thursday as one of his many recurring procedures, yet we were the ones hurting the most. Because of these circumstances, each and every one of us in my family have all experienced a complete 180 turn on our perspective on life. I am a firm believer in the saying that there is a light at the end of every tunnel, and in spite of this tunnel undoubtedly being the longest, darkest tunnel yet, it has definitely the one with the brightest light at the end. If Timmy can wake up every day and do 100 pushups in the midst of having Cancer and constantly feeling nauseous, then I surely can fill my days with productivity and pushing my body to its limits, too. Why should I complain about or dread going to work, school, or the gym when there are people out there who don’t even have the option to do so? Why wouldn’t I live each day like it’s my last when it very possibly could be? I now wake up every morning feeling grateful to even be alive, and even if the day ahead is going to be nothing but school, work, and no fun, I take advantage of it and give it my all. I make the most out of every single day and I look for the good in the bad. I’ve learned to still tell myself to, “Toughen up, Natalie! It could always be worse!” but to also remember that it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to not be happy and positive all the time, as I’ve learned through Timmy that there are endless benefits and better things that can come out of hardships. I have never valued life more than I do now, and I will carry the lessons I’ve learned from this situation with me in my everyday life."

Best of luck in all you do Natalie!

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