Caalim, Sandi – Surviving Mesothelioma

Caalim, Sandi

I want to make a difference…

Who am I? I am Sandi Adelyn Banlaoi Caalim…

And quitting is not of my nature, and neither was it for Rhio O’Conner. Rhio O’Conner’s story exemplifies the notion that nothing is impossible as long as you believe. I too could not give up, even if I wanted to, because I don’t only live for myself but for my mom, my grandmother, and my family. Everything I do, I dedicate it to them.

I made a list of things that I want to accomplish before I die and I plan on fulfilling that list. I am also a true believer that everything happens for a reason.

I have an indefatigable drive. I aim high and commit to do whatever it takes to accomplish my goals. If I were to be diagnosed with terminal cancer, I would not allow such news to hinder me from accomplishing my list; it would only mean that I would need to act faster. In fact, the illness would more than likely help me accomplish most if not all of my goals in life.

Throughout my life, I have been fostered to be academically oriented. I was raised on American soil with the intent to implement the Filipino way of life. Education, other than tending to the family, is supposedly my sole priority. Though I took a different route of doing things, my Asian upbringing helped me take advantage of educational opportunities and put forth my best in everything that I do, especially in the realm of academics. Ever since I was a little kid, I had an indefatigable curiosity to learn and explore; I was the four-year-old kid who would have “grown-up” conversations and asked questions that eventually annoyed my family. I loved books and pushed myself to read quickly so I could reread my favorite stories as I pleased. I wrote and read stories that were above my age level. I was the elementary student who was too excited and would wake up at five in the morning to get ready for school. I was and am the student who always wants to shine through my schoolwork and do more than what is expected out of me. After my junior year of high school, I became passionate about being an activist and implementing action to my beliefs and intentions to serve the community.

Now that I am at Dartmouth, I have so much knowledge, information, and many opportunities to take hold of and make mine. I have learned and imbibed the notion to think outside the box…to challenge my thoughts and ways; I try my best to stray away form a narrow-minded path. I also learned that you cannot only depend on others to help you find an answer; you have to do a lot of the finding and work yourself. I would not approach my diagnosis any differently. I would do whatever it takes to keep me breathing, even if it was just for a minute or a day longer…every second counts. I would, as much as possible, stay away from chemo as much as possible. Chemo saves a lot of people’s lives, including my aunt; however, it weakens the body and the mind. Though most people look to chemotherapy as their first option, there are other options to be explored – options that wont have you sitting next to a toilet all day. On the other hand, if I discover that chemotherapy is my only option, I would go through the debilitating procedures. My grandmother, mother, and my determination to help make the world a better place will motivate to fight harder and longer.

I am a stubborn, persistent, and determined woman; and I do not take no for an answer or accept one man’s diagnosis. I have been exposed to reading many empirical studies and quick biographies of doctors and scientists. I would continue researching different doctors and studies and seek the professionals that may help alleviate my pain. I will not stop until I find doctors and scientists who would be willing to work with me and find other approaches to keep me alive as long as possible. Though a cure may seem impossible and not feasible, I would continue to research and find one – or at least push the marker forwards to finding a cure. Even if I would not personally benefit from a cure, someone who is diagnosed with the same or similar disease can in the future. I would apply for funding at my college and/or pursue grants or donations from private companies. Fundraising will definitely be a part of my mission. Such funding would also be allocated to finding treatments that would effectively keep me alive and strong as long as possible.

Though I am only a freshman, my exposure to the laboratory atmosphere will suffice as a basis to spend hours in the laboratory. I am not afraid or shy to ask for help; and will therefore ask the researchers at Dartmouth and other institutions as necessary to help me use the equipment, manipulate different variables, conjure different procedures, and whatever else it takes to find better drugs, treatments, and possible even a cure. All the while, I would maintain the healthy lifestyle that I have been abiding by ever since my high school years. My diagnosis is not an excuse to indulge in reckless behavior and eating habits; such actions would only weaken mentally and pull me a step backwards.

I mentioned that I would seek scientists’ help as well. I would be willing to be an experimental subject in case studies or any other studies that could potentially help me surpass the “deadline” of my diagnosis. However, I would ensure that I read the studies’ documents and informed consent thoroughly and make sure that I understand all the different constraints and components of the study.

I would never give up and allow myself to be stuck in a rut or on a one-way road. I will keep fighting until my very last breath. Even if I do not benefit from all of my discoveries or findings, I know with all my heart that someone will in the future. I want to show my family and friends that despite all the circumstances, I am still the same person and alive more than ever. I love way too many people and have too many aspirations – I cannot give up.

I want to travel the world and physically treat sick children and senior citizens and anyone for that matter. I want to help advance mankind even further, but in the right direction. I want to save people’s lives and give families good news regarding their loved ones successful brain operation. I want to make even the little things count. I would never give up just like Rhio O’Conner.

…And show the world what I have to offer.

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