By Heather Wagner
Brittany is the girl farthest left in the picture and I am the
farthest right. The girl in the middle is our youngest sis Allison
The biggest influence in my life is my sister, Brittany. My sister is three years younger than me, but she teaches me more about life than I would ever be able to learn by myself. Too many people in today’s society develop the habit of judging others without ever fully knowing them. Brittany experiences this type of discrimination on a daily basis because she was born with a rare skin disease, called Dominant Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (DDEB); this causes her skin to blister at the joints due to friction from the lack of a protein between the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin. Because of Brittany and DDEB, I have become more accepting of the diversity around me, and I am more appreciative of what I have.
Brittany has taught me to be passionate about everything I do and to never give up. Not once have I faltered on this belief because I want to show Brittany just how much of an impact she has on my life. I want to show her that I would never give up on anything in life, including her. I continually strive to exceed all expectations in order to show her that she must do the same to overcome the obstacles, including the discrimination from society, that lie before her.
In all honesty, it was not until my eighth grade year that I believed in God. Brittany had been diagnosed with melanoma in early fall. My reaction upon hearing this news was nothing short of shocked. However, having completed a research paper on this disease earlier, I knew of the possible results of this diagnosis; it was either life or death. Therefore, fearing the worst, I desperately attempted everything in my power to prevent any further problems for her. This included attending church every Sunday as well as youth group and bible study. I thought that through my faith and persistence I could save my sister. That upcoming summer, Brittany underwent surgery to take the cancerous skin off her body by the means of replacing it with a skin graft. As Brittany’s skin disease is rare, none of the doctors thought the graft would take, ultimately meaning they thought the skin would not adhere to the old, thus never scarring over. However, I believe my faith and persistence in God are reasons why the skin graft adhered to her other skin and she lived. She is the single most important aspect of my life, and if it were not for my faith in God’s love, who knows what would have happened.
In essence, knowing that I have someone looking over me like I do, Brittany has led me to become more self-confident in everything I do. Additionally, since Brittany has a short life expectancy, she has moved me to live life for every moment, for no one knows when life will end. Also, this experience has increased my drive and determination for what the future holds as well as my future goals. These goals include: attending medical school after Cleveland State University, finding a cure for DDEB, and raising a family of my own.
I treasure my education because it is the single most important factor into becoming a doctor and pursuing my life’s ambition. Ever since Brittany was born, I have been interested in finding a cure, and now that I have been given the opportunity, I want to take full advantage and obtain the best education possible. In essence, I have always believed that I could make all the pain, suffering, and discrimination my sister has suffered go away by finding a cure. It has become my life’s ambition to pursue my studies and find a cure for DDEB. I know that my future will consist of many long nights spent studying for an exam, practicing an oral presentation, or completing that day’s homework and reading. However, I am prepared to complete any task ahead of me that is necessary to achieve my goals. I am also prepared to exceed all expectations in order to increase my understanding of this disease as well as everything it effects.
In conclusion, I love my sister for teaching me the right way to treat people and to approach life in general. Not once have I backed down from the goals I have set for myself academically as well as athletically. Even through her darkest hours, Brittany taught me how to never give up, to desire even greater success, and to always do my best. She has proven to be my guiding light whenever I may question the work it will take to achieve my goals. In addition, Brittany helps me to be more accepting of those that may appear different than I as well as more appreciative of that which God has blessed me. It is also because of her that I chose to wholeheartedly believe in the Lord and to fully participate in Christian activities more frequently. Also, she is the reason I desire to obtain the best education I am able so that I can achieve my goal of becoming a doctor and finding a cure for DDEB. I have learned to never judge others nor take for granted the many blessings the Lord has given me. For if Brittany hadn’t been born with her skin condition, I would never have developed the open-minded and passionate personality that I feel will enable me to achieve all of my goals.