Meet A Survivor – Olivia Waldenberg!

A stabbing pain rung through my heart as my achy and trembling body sat in disbelief. My eyes slowly started to swell up with tears. I held them back without a blink; afraid I would look weak if I let the tears roll down my face. Keeping it together as best as I could, my doctor announced to me that I had been diagnosed with ITP. Immune Thrombocytopenia Purpura, a rare uncureable blood disease that caused my body to under produce enough platelets for my blood to clot correctly. I was devastated from the news, but more scared for my future. Feeling so afraid and worried about what this would do to my body, I felt that it was the biggest obstacle I had ever encountered in my life.

While stunting in cheer, playing tennis, or even going cliff jumping in the summer was a pull back from my everyday reality of a carefree spirit, it taught me a new way of life. Cautious and still. A complete change of lifestyle but one that I had no other choice than to try. At first it seemed pointless and dumb but eventually got through to me how important it was to restrict myself from certain activities and taking high levels of precaution. The biggest setback I have ever experienced that would change my life forever. While at the time it seemed as if my life was over it had deeper meaning of just setback.

It taught me to look at things more optimistically, change the difficult into easy; but most importantly, learn the delicacy of life. Most times it felt as if the bad days could not get any worse, as if I would be stuck in the constant circle of doctor appointments and steroids forever. After having to rearrange my life to a new and unknown lifestyle, with weekly blood draws, several new medicines, and different IV’s, it taught me to appreciate how good I had it. At the time it seemed as if there would be a constant weight of dread on my shoulders, it made me realize the opportunities that were still in store for my future.

Seeing so many other, younger, sick kids on my weekly trips to the hospital for my checkups, screaming in the rooms next to me, made it clear to me just how much I took life for granted. The month-long bruises on my arms and legs appeared to be the worst thing that ever happened in my life; but seeing all these other kids experience twice as much pain as I had, made me reconsider everything. As some days it seemed as if I had hit rock bottom when I found fault and negativity in everything I was doing. I knew I could rise above the state of pity and sorrow I consistently found myself in. I had to make the most of what I had that these other kids did not.

Something so small appeared to be something so big, that I let it swallow up the happiness and innocence of my newly birthed teenage years. It taught me to overcome the struggle and turn it into a challenge instead. It was not going to outlive me, and I stood by that. My ITP will encourage me to push through the feeling of limitations when schoolwork gets tough to remind me about the much harder obstacles I have faced in the past. College will help me grow as a person and expand myself to develop new connections of an interest that I can be the best me in . Not only will it help me with future aspirations of pursuing my own business, but it will teach me the depth and willingness of putting in hours of hard work.

ITP has taught me to chase my goals rather than run from them. But in the midst of it all, it most importantly taught me to become more humble and grounded in the person I was becoming. It taught me to not take no for an answer and say yest to anything and everything that presented itself to me. It helped me continue to grow into the person I am today and experience my life to the fullest. Without it, I would not be half the teenager I am now. What I learned most about having a chronic condition is making the most of what life throws at you.

Whether it be big or small, but to take advantage of everything around me. Whether it is my friends, family, or loved ones. Whether they mean a lot to me or not, wasting my time falling into the same loopholes of despair will only get me to where I started. It taught me to be present in the moment because life will pass me by if I’m not here to live in it.

~~Olivia Waldenburg

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