We have heard the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Theoretically, this sounds like good advice. Even if life gets tough, we should try to bring about positive experiences during our trials.
But, what if life gives you the biggest lemon possible?
What if life gives you cancer? Then the previous advice seems futile.
It took me months to adjust to having two life-long illnesses, and they are not even life-threatening if people take the proper precautions with them. A dear friend of mine named Julia Sanchez was diagnosed with something far worse.
Julia got cancer in her early 20s. And, she did not make lemonade out of her lemons. Nope.
She did more than that; this girl made grape juice! She did what most people would find impossible. Instead of becoming bitter, she lived each day to the fullest, and she found ways to inspire everyone around her and every life she came in contact with, even over social media.
I was lucky enough to be Julia’s RA during her freshman year at Western Carolina University. I have never met anyone happier or more passionate than her. At the time, she wanted to major in psychology so she could help people in need (people like me, for instance).
Cancer could not crush Julia Sanchez’s dreams.
When Julia got sick and withdrew from WCU after her freshman year, she did not give up on higher education. Her dreams merely changed, and she started to pursue a career in culinary arts. I remember how much she spoiled me with her cooking, and I knew that this career field would also suit her well.
But, she did not stop there. She started a direct sales business with Origami Owl, spent a ton of time with family and friends, and continued to have the most amazing faith in God I have ever witnessed.
She has continued this mindset in recent years, even as her cancer has become severe. Now, in her final days, she remains one of the happiest and full-of-life people I have ever met. She has gone to get her nails done, indulged in gourmet cupcakes, and dyed her hair blue. She has begun wearing her mother’s engagement ring, because she knows that falling in love with yourself if just as if not more important than falling in love with a significant other. She is incredible. Cancer has not slowed her down; perhaps the opposite!
One time, Julia made me cry, and she has no idea. We were messaging online after she left Western, and she made the following comment to me: “I strive to be you, if you didn’t know that already.” I was overwhelmed, because I have no idea why an amazing person like Julia would want to be like me.
She is already so much more. I should be the one who wants to become her. And I do. If I make a small fraction of the impact on people that I know Julia has made on everyone she has ever met, I will have had a well-lived life.
I want to be a lot of things as I grow and adventure through life. I want to be a mother, great wife, influential teacher, writer, world traveler, champion for Christ.
I also I want be something else. I want to be a “Julia Sanchez.”
Godspeed, beautiful girl! I will carry you in my heart forever. Thanks for being a part of my life. Even if I have only known you for a short period of time, your presence in my mind has a ripple effect, and you have made my life infinitely better.