“Ouch,” I thought, after what seemed like a typical insect bite on my left leg. That is, until the sharp and unbearable pain put my life on hold.
I didn’t know that I, a fearless female, could be demolished by a bacterial infection. Strength stands as an important building block of who I am. I balanced and excelled in my daily activities. I was never afraid of a challenge. I’m called “Mama Beans,” the mother figure for my friends. I never realized my weakest point until my sophomore year in December 2014.
During winter break, my dance team and I traveled to Fresno, California, for a competition. I discovered something itchy at the top of my leg. I shrugged it off, thinking it was a mosquito bite. Within a day, it was bigger and the pain was almost unbearable. Pulling myself together, I went onstage with that “bite.” On the plane ride home, it felt like a knife was jabbing through my leg.
Waiting for answers and relief was agonizing. The “bite” evolved into a huge boil that my mom had to treat every night. I began to pray to God even though I’m not Christian, nor a religious person.
“You have a MRSA infection,” said the doctors. It stands for Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a fancy way to say bacteria has eaten up a part of my skin. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the organs and be life-threatening.
The “bite” began a four-month-long battle. I had to bathe in bleach and water. Just when it seemed like I was getting better, the infection spread. I wasn’t strong enough to last through a school day, and I began missing classes. I was restricted from gymnastics and dance. I couldn’t sit or walk proudly down the school hallway. Tears streaming down my face were endless.
I was terrified of the infection spreading to my organs, resulting in my death. Fed up and tired of hurting, I decided to get surgery in February 2015. Surgery was painful, yet relieving. But recovery was the worst part. The struggle to walk, sit and sleep worsened.
It felt like a dream. Just a few months earlier I’d gained happiness from landing a round off, back handspring, back tuck. I loved feeling the adrenaline flow through my body from being on stage. I always had too much on my plate, but I loved the thought of always being busy.
Due to the turmoil, I dropped to the B Honor Roll for the first time. Sometimes I stared into space while sitting in the tub, and felt nothing. With one leg up, I’d watch the water drip from my leg. I’d observe my bare body, consumed with the hidden bacteria. I listened to the water splashing down from the shower spout, smelling bleach throughout me.
I pondered of my failure; I failed my teachers, my coach, my parents, but most importantly, myself. I had fallen off the top.
Slowly, but surely, I rose up. I decided to fight. I stood high on the beam once more. I pushed through late nights of homework and studying with the help and aroma of coffee. I was laughing and smiling again.
After the surgery, doctors told me I now carried the bacteria. I was still able to get another staph if I got cuts or had anything happen to my skin.
But I realized that yes, I’m a carrier, a carrier of true strength. True strength is attained by understanding and accepting your weakness, and learning to work out of it. I also carry two scars from surgery, which are a reminder of my fortitude.
Since this time, I’ve won and lost some battles, but that’s just life. You win some, you lose some, and all that matters is if you’re still standing. I still have plenty of battles to fight before I win this war.